Never forget

City of Dunkirk firefighters mark 9/11 anniversary

OBSERVER Photo by Diane R. Chodan Jim Muscato, president of the Dunkirk Professional Firefighters Association I.A.F.F. Local 616, rings the bell to commemorate the loss of life during the ceremony remembering 9-11. The firefighters stood at attention.

For many people, the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 might have happened just recently. Much like the assassination of President Kennedy or, in an earlier age, the attack on Pearl Harbor, 9/11 is vividly etched in the minds and memories of those alive at the time.

In point of fact, it has been 16 years since the devastating events at the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. City of Dunkirk firefighters have marked the anniversary of the attacks each year.

According to Dunkirk Fire Department Captain Gary Katta, “Every year since 2001, the guys have gotten together. We always vowed never to forget. It has become an occasion to honor first responders as well as get out the retired members and meet together.”

While no one from the Dunkirk Fire Department died or was injured, Katta said, “A few of us have friends that died that day.”

This was a day to remember the civilian victims of the tragedy in addition the firefighters and police who worked as first responders and those who dealt with its aftermath. A mixture of sorrow and pride shone through the words offered by the speakers.

OBSERVER Photo by Diane R. Chodan The bell that rang out in memory of the firefighters and victims who lost their lives on Sept. 11, 2001.

In his public remarks, Katta paid homage to “brothers and sisters (responders) who made the ultimate sacrifice and those who later suffered from the direct effects (of work on the site). They didn’t want to become heroes; they were just doing their jobs.”

Monsignor (retired) Albert Clody, who served as chaplain for the City of Buffalo Fire Department, delivered both the invocation and the closing prayer. He prayed for those who died 16 years ago, those who died later due to the after effects of inhaling the toxins, and those currently dealing with illness stemming from toxins. He also prayed for their families.

Clody said, “When I think about 9/11, I think of Psalm 140. Deliver me from the hands of the wicked, preserve me from violence …”

Dunkirk Mayor Willie Rosas delivered a short but powerful recollection of the aftermath of the tragedy. At the time he was employed by the New York State Troopers and was assigned to ground zero at the morgue, which did not allow people to come in during the efforts to gather remains.

“The respect and professionalism shown by all departments made me feel part of the team,” he said. “It changed me as an officer and as a person. The people who came up and gave us hugs, and the people who offered us what help they could such as food and water touched me. The point of the terrorists was to make Americans like us afraid. Instead we stayed together and became stronger.”

Jim Muscato, president of the Dunkirk Professional Firefighters Association I.A.F.F. Local 616, rang a bell to commemorate the loss of life that resulted from 9/11 while fire department members stood at attention. This was followed by taps played by college student Brandon Katta, nephew of Captain Gary Katta.

Haileigh Pawlak, a junior at Dunkirk High School, sang “The Star Spangled Banner” a cappella while the firefighters stood in formation.

Fire Chief Mike Edwards reiterated that firefighters and other first responders were “just doing their jobs.”

“Someone who has the firefighter calling understands loyalty. … Never forget. Be inspired by their acts,” he said, thanking all who attended the remembrance ceremony.

Bill Reardon, who proudly disclosed that he is 97, was one of the retired firefighters who attended. A former president of the firefighters union, he feels he is fortunate to have been able to attend most of the 9/11 remembrance ceremonies.

“It’s good to visit,” he said. While fully understanding the terrible devastation of that day, he has kept a remarkably optimistic outlook on life. He still serves on the Citizens’ Advisory Council for Dunkirk and is optimistic for the city’s future.