Firefighters and other first responders from all parts of the Bitterroot Valley will gather Saturday in two communities to remember the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
This year will mark the 19th that Stevensville’s fire and police departments will join with other first responder agencies in the area to honor the 412 emergency workers who died in New York City after the World Trade Center’s twin towers were struck down.
“It’s a remembrance of the loss and sacrifice and the unselfish heroism of those who responded,” said Stevensville Fire Chief Jeff Motley. “It’s important to remember those things and pay honor and respect to those who were lost that day.
The ceremony in Stevensville hasn’t changed much since it began the year following the tragic event.
It begins at 9:30 a.m. with a silent emergency vehicle procession on the town’s Main Street beginning at Middle Burnt Fork Road to First Street at Veterans Park. The community will gather at Veterans Park for a remembrance ceremony at 10 a.m. that includes the American Legion Post #94 Color Guard, the reading of the names of the fallen by local first responders, and the last alarm.
First responders from Victor, Florence and Three Mile fire departments will take part in the procession and ceremony.
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Motley said 9/11 is a day that will forever be remembered.
“I was driving to work in Hamilton when I first heard about it on the radio,” he said. “I got into work at the store and we pull it up on a TV and spent the day watching the news unfold.”
Joe Kerr of the Hamilton Fire Department said ceremonies like those happening in Hamilton and Stevensville are important because an entire generation wasn’t born when the attack occurred.
“Most, or a large proportion, of the soldiers recently killed in the suicide bombing in Kabul weren’t even alive when 9/11 happened,” Kerr said. “We still have soldiers dying because of an event that happened before they were even born. It’s a significant milestone for our country and it’s important to educate those too young to remember it.”
Kerr chaired the 9/11 Memorial Committee that put together the remembrance ceremony planned Saturday at the Hamilton Fire Department Station #1 at the corner of South Third and State streets. The area will be blocked off as firefighters from Hamilton, Corvallis, Darby, Sula and Pinesdale gather with other first responders for a ceremony around the flagpole.
Bagpipe music will open the event at 10 a.m.
A brief overview of what occurred on Sept. 11, 2001, will start the ceremony, which will be followed by the Fireman’s Prayer and a call for order to arms.
There will be a bell ceremony where the firehouse bell is rung five times in succession to remember the moments when the two towers of the World Trade Center in New York City were hit by passenger planes, a third plane hit the Pentagon outside Washington. D.C. and a fourth plane crashed into a Pennsylvania field. Almost 3,000 people were killed in the terrorist attacks.
The bell will be rung an additional five times as the last call for the firefighters who died following the attack, Kerr said.
Firefighters and other first responders will remain at attention during the bell-ringing ceremony. An honor guard will raise the flag to full staff and then bring it back down to half-staff. The ceremony will be followed by 30 seconds of silence. A bagpipe musician will end the ceremony with a rendition of “Amazing Grace.”
Plans call for posting a large flag between the ladders of Hamilton’s new ladder truck and one owned by the Corvallis Fire Department.
People can tour the existing station after the ceremony and learn about the department’s plans to build a new one. All of the fire departments will have tables set up to answer questions from people interested in serving as volunteer firefighters.