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Compassion, sacrifice and caring for others echoed in Fire Station 3 in the early morning of this year’s Sept. 11 ceremony of remembrance of the first responders killed in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
“Thank you for attending the ceremony honoring the sacrifices of 19 years ago,” Evanston Fire Chief Brian Scott said to the crowd of more than 100 – all masked, some inside Fire Station 3 and others on the sidewalk and apron. The ceremony, traditionally held at Firemen’s Park on Maple Avenue, was relocated to the station at 1105 Central St.
Despite the current pandemic, Chief Scott said, firefighters and police officers go to work. Some have spent weeks away from their loved ones so they can go to work. We thank them for their service – [and thank the first responders of Sept. 11, 2001] whose professionalism shone in the service of our country.”
Evanston Fire Department Chaplain Heath Howe led the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi and spoke of the care and professionalism involved in public safety.
Police Chaplain Rabbi Dov Klein said, “To remember the past is to shape our future; to remember the past is to understand where we are today. … We [have to] realize that our heroes are with us today.”
Aldermen Peter Braithwaite, Don Wilson, Robin Rue Simmons, Eleanor Reveille and Ann Rainey, as well as some state legislators, attended the ceremony.
Mayor Stephen Hagerty said he spent two-and-a-half years helping New York City recover after the attacks. “Three hundred forty-three firefighters perished trying to save the lives of thousands and thousands of people – 412 emergency responders. …” I don’t know if that includes the police officer and firefighters who subsequently passed away because of the toxic environment they worked in.
“Here we are, 19 years later, all of us wearing masks, trying to get through. We got through [in New York City] because we came together, we showed courage, we showed compassion and we all played a part. In this pandemic we will get through. We all need to play a part.”
Ald. Simmons said, “Thank you to Chief Scott and to all of your first responders. Chief, you and your team have always been so gracious. Only together will we see that change that we are so hopeful for.”
It took years, noted Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, for Congress to appropriate aid to the first responders who suffered health problems because of their exposure to the toxins of Sept. 11. “The [current] pandemic is another kind of battle. I am thinking of those who suit up and go to work every day – the health-care workers, the people who bag groceries, drive the buses, deliver the mail. This is who we are as a country. This is not about making money – it’s about public service. … We need to say ‘Thank you’ to the people who have the spirit of public service and self-sacrifice. We need to tell our young people that this is honorable work that you do every day.”
Evanston Police Chief Demitrous Cook thanked everyone “for coming out on this day of remembrance for those killed in the attack on American soil 19 years ago. We must continue to pray for the families and friends of our fellow brothers and sisters. We must continue to signal to the world that this day, September 11, is a sacred day, and we will not let it happen again. September 11 is a day that should exemplify how we love and care for each other.
The ceremony, which began at 7:30 a.m., concluded an hour later with the tolling of the firefighters’ bell for fallen comrades and Taps played by Scout Jack Donovan.