After two years of abbreviated observances due to COVID, the traditional Edmonds 9/11 observance returned Sunday morning, attracting an estimated 75 attendees including uniformed firefighters, elected officials and members of the public.
“It’s good to be back,” began emcee and firefighter Dave “Bronco” Erickson, the driving force behind creating the Fallen Firefighter Memorial park adjacent to Edmonds Fire Station 17 at 6th Avenue and Sprague Street in downtown Edmonds, adding “I hope I never have to do a ceremony like this over Zoom again!”
After greeting attendees, Erickson went on to review the events of that terrible morning when terrorists on suicide missions hijacked four passenger aircraft, intending to crash them into both towers of the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the White House. While three made it to their targets, the passengers aboard United Airlines flight 93 overpowered the hijackers in flight, sparing the White House. Flight 93 instead crashed into a field near Shanksburg, Pennsylvania. All on board perished.
“This was the deadliest attack ever on U.S. soil,” explained Erickson. “The death toll that day reached 3000, including 343 firefighters, 60 police, and 10 EMS workers.”
Erickson went on to explain the significance of several aspects of the memorial, noting that the centerpiece – a section of twisted steel I-beam from the wreckage of the twin towers – is flanked by two stainless steel panels representing the towers, within which are 3000 glass facets honoring those who lost their lives that day.
“Among the clear glass facets honoring all those who died, there are 343 red and 60 blue facets honoring the fallen firefighters and police respectively,” he continued. “These are arranged in the shape of a furling U.S. flag, and as lighting conditions vary through the days and season, they present an ever-changing pattern of light and color.”
He went on to relate an incident he witnessed while visiting ground zero 10 years after the attack.
“The new tower was under construction at the time, and the area was alive with activity,” he began. “But then all of a sudden everything stopped. The reason was that another set of human remains had been discovered at the construction site. Only after a crew from Ladder Company 10 arrived to respectfully and honorably remove the remains did work resume.
“It’s what we do to honor those who fell on that day,” he concluded. “It’s not that we care because we are firefighters – we are firefighters because we care.”
Erickson was followed by former New York Fire Department and Edmonds firefighter Andy Spier. Spier had relocated to Edmonds years before the events of 9/11, but he still held his NYFD brothers and sisters close to his heart. As the events of 9/11 unfolded, he immediately requested leave to return to New York and help with recovery, spending many months at ground zero removing bodies of the fallen.
Edmonds Mayor Mike Nelson spoke next, reminding the audience that the tragedy of 9/11 lives on, with many first responders continuing to suffer from physical and emotional maladies brought on by their work at ground zero in the immediate wake of the attack.
After the formal ceremony, a special presentation was made to Edmonds resident and driving force behind the Fallen Heroes Project, artist Michael Reagan. Citing Reagan’s dedication to honoring fallen heroes through creating more than 8,700 portraits for the families of those who lost their lives in action, fellow U.S. Marine veteran and martial arts master Jim Curtis presented him with an honorary black belt recognizing his efforts on behalf of the families of fallen warriors.
After the presentation, Erickson returned to the podium to thank everyone for attending, and reminding all that the Fallen Firefighters Memorial Park belongs to them as a place of contemplation and remembrance.
“And remember – you don’t have to go to New York to touch ground zero,” he concluded, “because a piece of New York has come here.”
— Story and photos by Larry Vogel