Early this morning, September 11, on the 13th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the aborted assault which ended in Shanksville, more than 15 Cranberry Township Volunteer Firefighters gathered in a light rain to pay their respects. The most visible part of their commemoration was a very large American flag hoisted from the Company’s 100-foot aerial ladder truck over US Route 19, in front of their Park Fire Station.
Recollections of that horrific morning are burned deep into the memory of everyone who was old enough to understand the gravity of what had just happened. But as I observed this morning’s respectful and solemn process, I was struck by the range of ages of those participating. Junior firefighters who were only three or four years old that day, were there, learning about an event that changed our world. And then there were those – myself included – who had lived through those days experiencing, anger, sadness, disgust and the full range of human emotions.
By hoisting their flag, the Cranberry Township Volunteer Fire Company was proclaiming that our community will never forget the thousands of lives that were lost to terrorism on that day 13 years ago. But for firefighters, perhaps more than for any other part of our community, the loss was particularly poignant. Firefighters everywhere see themselves as a brotherhood – a family whose joys and sorrows are shared, no matter where they live. The 343 firefighters whose lives were lost in New York while attempting to rescue others, was a devastating blow to firefighters everywhere.
Several years ago, the Fire Company created a permanent memorial to the 9/11 victims at the Park Fire Station. It includes a torturously twisted steel girder recovered from one of the Trade Center Towers, along with a scaled version of the World Trade Center Grounds. It is a place of reflection and sadness, but also one that shows the resilient American spirit.
That 9/11 Memorial is open to the public, 24/7. It can be accessed from the parking lot at the rear of the Park Fire Station by following the sidewalk to the front of the building. Even after dark, it is appropriately lighted for nighttime viewing.
Each of us should take a moment to thank our first responders and all of our uniformed service men and women for their efforts to keep us safe in times of crisis and for the sacrifices they make in providing that essential public service, every day.