Like Pearl Harbor, to remember and never forget 9/11 is easy for those who lived through it, they can't forget it. But the promise to remember the fallen and the acts of heroism as a legacy and tribute to what a nation stands for falls upon the generation that experienced it. To etch it in the minds and hearts of those too young to remember the day was the purpose of commemorative services across the nation on September 11th and the theme of hours of nationally broadcast specials. Perhaps the most meaningful of which were held in the small towns of America like the Central Peninsula where hundreds gathered on the 10th Anniversary with family and friends to remember and honor the first responders of our community, our sons and daughters who wear the uniforms and practice the skills of saving lives in time of emergencies.
A solemn occasion yet as Soldotna Mayor Peter Micciche said a time of celebration, "That's right...to celebrate. We have become a target of others with little, because we are incredibly fortunate to have so much. We are here to celebrate the greatness of our freedom, and that although we have suffered a loss, we enjoyed the commitment, quality and integrity of those that are gone," said Micciche.
"The feeling I received along with the rest of the first responders here today was that the support from the community and the many who came out today was amazing," said Central Emergency Services (CES) Chief Chris Mokracek in an interview with the Dispatch. CES volunteer fire fighter John Landess organized a nine hundred and eleven mile motorcycle ride to memorialize the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
"We rode from Anchorage to Fairbanks then back home to the Peninsula with the intention of tallying up 911 miles in remembrance of 9/11. It was a long ride through some beautiful and some nasty weather, but it gave us time to bond and think about what the men and women must have felt on that day. I kept a picture of Capt. Hatten with me and thought about what he was thinking that day and his feelings of looking up and knowing the destruction that was above and that he was going to go in and if he could save one extra life in exchange for his own it would be worth it. Being a first responder is an honor and privilege, a brotherhood of those willing to go above and beyond for anyone who may need your help," said Landess.
38 people joined Landess on the ride and others joined in for the final leg from the Harley Davidson shop in Soldotna to CES. Landess said he began planning the ride back in January and that all proceeds from the ride will be donated to the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation.
On the lawn at CES were planted 343 American flags one for each who did precisely that on 9/11, the most first responders to loose their lives in a single day in the history of the United States of America. On a table next to the podium a piece of steel cut from the ruins of the twin towers that will remain at CES as a permanent memorial of 9/11.
The following day Monday September 12th local first responders were invited to Redoubt Elementary for lunch compliments of the students and faculty, "We did it on the 1st Anniversary of 9/11 to say thank you to our local first responders and then we did it again on the 5th Anniversary and we thought the 10th Anniversary would be appropriate to do it again as a small token of our appreciation and as a reminder to our students who don't recall 9/11 because they were either not born yet or too young to remember that day that our local fire and police departments are here to help our communities in times of emergencies and in a very small way to say thank you," said Sharron Hale who has organized all three of the thank you lunches. "You know before 9/11 no one said thank you to a fire fighter, we heard a lot of criticism if we weren't there soon enough or didn't prevent something, but having people say thank you, we appreciate you, just wasn't part of the job, but you know what? It feels really great," commented a long time Kenai fire fighter.
Several of Kristin Arthur's sixth grade students said they didn't remember 9/11 and hadn't seen anything on TV about it, but when asked about that day Elizabeth said, "It was the day the firefighters lost there lives trying to save the all the people in the building, and that's what veterans and police and firefighters do for us today." "They were just too young to remember that day," said Arthur, "But we do talk about what happened in school and they have read about it for years and we emphasize that it was not just the day America was attacked by terrorists and that planes were flown into buildings, but that 343 fire fighters were killed saving other people's lives that day and that the police and firemen in our community are heroes because they are here for us everyday."