Ceremony honours those killed in line of duty

From the raised ladder of a yellow fire truck yesterday, a Canadian and American flag flapped in the breeze.
Filing past the flags, fire, police, and emergency personnel gathered outside the Civic Centre here Wednesday morning for two minutes of silence to honour their comrades lost in the terrorist attacks of last Sept. 11.
“It brings back a lot of emotional feelings,” Fort Frances Fire Chief Steve Richardson said afterwards. “In Fort Frances, emergency services personnel is a very, very closely knit group. What happened in New York a year ago affected everybody.
“With the loss of a firefighter or police officer in the line of duty, everyone feels it across North America,” he added, voice shaken after the service.
“When you loose the number that were lost on that day . . . it will remain in the minds of everyone in the service sector for years to come,” Chief Richardson remarked.
Exactly one year earlier, almost 3,000 people were killed when terrorists hijacked four U.S. airlines planes and crashed them into the World Trade Centre in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington D.C.
The fourth crashed into a field in Pennsylvania after passengers overpowered the hijackers.
Hundreds of police officers, firefighters, and emergency response personnel were killed that day trying to save people in the twin towers. The loss has touched the hearts of every emergency or police officer in North America.
Chief Richardson said being able to come together with other support personnel was a way to help cope with the aftermath of those tragic events.
Representatives from local fire services and the Ontario Fire Marshal’s Office were joined by OPP, RCMP, U.S. Border Patrol, CN police, Canada Customs and Immigration, paramedics, and others for the service held at 10 a.m.
“We remember all the firefighters and police officers who lost their life,” deputy mayor Deane Cunningham said to the crowd of about 50 people on hand.
“The tragedy is that thousands of victims also died that day.
“May the events of Sept. 11 make us ever more vigilent . . . ever more protective of our freedoms,” he continued.
The small ceremony, which concluded with officers saluting the flags as they were raised from half-mast, was not attended solely by Canadians.
“I’m up here from the States to show there really is a brotherhood on this border,” U.S. border patrol officer Lonny Schweitzer said.
“I received a phone call 20 minutes after it happened from an officer in Canada offering condolences and asking what they could do to help,” Schweitzer recalled.
“It just really shows that what happens in the United States influences Canada and vice versa,” he noted. “We always knew that, but with the events of 9/11 it really shows there is a brotherhood with all of us.”
The small memorial touched a nerve with almost every officer present.
“We were all very affected by the events of last year, and to relive that and share this year’s memory with fellow officers is a very moving experience,” admitted Fort Frances OPP S/Sgt. Hugh Dennis.
“It was perhaps the saddest day in North American history,” added OPP Inspector Shawn Hayes, regional director of operations for the North West region.
“It was a day we will never forget and we will do everything in our power to ensure that it doesn’t happen again,” Hayes pledged.
For RCMP S/Sgt. Dave Mabee, who attended the ceremony from the Thunder Bay detachment, the anniversary brought back all those emotions he felt last Sept. 11.
“There’s been a loss of innocence since it happened,” he said.
Mabee was stationed in Milton, Ont. when the attacks occurred. He was put in charge of helping co-ordinate Canadian police response in Ontario.
“It felt like we should grieve at that moment, but you had to keep the process going and concentrate on the task at hand,” he recalled.
Mabee and fellow officers put aside their feelings and worked for several days straight to help determine what happened and why.
“Everybody put in 110 percent in the investigation of the terrorist attack,” he said.
“It was a while later before the majority of it sunk in . . . I didn’t get any sleep for the first 48 hours, but a couple of days afterwards I picked up and read a newspaper.
“That’s when it hit me the number of people who died giving their life to save others,” he said, tears welling in his eyes.