It has been 11 years since the terror attacks and many remember as if it were yesterday. The Dunkirk Firefighters Local 616 held its annual 9/11 remembrance ceremony to ensure we did not forget.
"I'd like to take a moment to remember the firefighters who made the rescues of the thousands of strangers that they didn't know," Lt. Matt Hanlon, Local 616 Union president, said. "Many of those firefighters entered those buildings knowing they were going to die. They looked at each other and said goodbye."
Hanlon opened the ceremony with trying to remember what it was like that fateful day for those firefighters. One third of the firefighters killed were off-duty at the time of the attacks. Some who survived the attacks are now fighting other diseases from the attack.
OBSERVER Photos by Samantha McDonnell
Top: Dunkirk Firefighters Jason Kirell (left) and Joseph Kucharski (right) stand at attention during the playing of Taps.
"More than 400 firefighters have lost their lives due to the Ground Zero toxins," Hanlon said.
Hanlon recognized the 343 firefighters lost in those attacks with a moment of silence and ringing of the bell.
The bell was rung a total of 10 times - three rings, four rings and three rings.
Dunkirk Mayor A.J. Dolce thanked all those in attendance and recognized the fire department for putting on the event. Dolce then talked about every generation having one event they will never forget.
"Every generation unduly witnesses a catastrophic event that becomes so ingrained in the nation's collective mind that one does not forget where you were or what you were doing at that time. For us September 11, 2001 was such time," Dolce said. "That's why we are gathered here today, 11 years later to pay tribute to the thousands of people, men, women and children whose lives were senselessly taken."
Dolce spoke how 9/11 will become another day like Memorial Day and Veterans Day "to honor those men and women who suffered on that day as well as those who continue to suffer the days, weeks, months and years after." Dolce closed his remarks by asking those to remember and honor the victims' sacrifices of that day.
"Your spirit lives on in the nation's resolve," he said.
Police Chief David Ortolano spoke of "the day we must never forget."
"Today we come together here to pay tribute to those who gave the ultimate sacrifice on September 11, 2001. The best way we can pay tribute to those lost is by never forgetting," Ortolano said.
Ortolano then gave praise to firefighters, emergency service works, police officers and military workers who continue to serve our country.
Capt. Allen Loeb of the Dunkirk Fire Department spoke next, remembering the attacks and how each person will have their own account.
"The events of that day were so shocking that each of us remembers what we were doing and how we learned what was happening in Washington (D.C.) and New York," Loeb said.
Loeb spoke of how we should never forget that fateful day.
"It was an extraordinarily emotional day, and although we all remember, part of our subconscious tells us to forget, to block out the painful memories," he said. "We should go on living with renewed passion and we should never forget how we felt that day. If we do, the lessons we learned will be lost in the fog of time and we'll be destined to repeat those lessons."
Loeb also spoke how life changed from Sept. 10 to Sept. 12, 11 years ago. He spoke of how 9/11 was the first time Americans were attacked on their own soil since Pearl Harbor.
"Do you remember waking up on September 12? It was a very different world than what we woke up on the day before," Loeb said.
Loeb closed with a Bible verse, John 15:13, "Greater love has no man than this, than a man who lay down his life for his friends."
The final speaker for the ceremony was Lt. Dan Gonzalez, chaplain. Gon-zalez started out by asking the audience to imagine their family being home at night and waking up to find their house on fire.
"Suddenly you hear that voice 'Is anybody in there?' ... Suddenly you look to see that (your family) have already been rescued and are outside covered in a warm blanket on a cold night," Gonzalez said. "This is what the firemen, policemen and rescue workers do on a day to day basis. This is called sacrifice."
Gonzalez spoke of 9/11 as being the day "America woke up." This day was the day Americans were vulnerable and their lives would never be the same.
"This is not a day of grieving or sadness. This is a day of courage. A day to give tribute to the amazing men and women who gave their lives," Gonzalez said. "The best tribute we could give to them is to live our lives and make them proud."
Gonzalez ended the program with a prayer. During the ceremony, patriotic songs were played. "Taps" was played by Brandon Katta and "God Bless America" was sung by Amy Cunningham.
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