Soldotna pays tribute to its heroes

Posted: Thursday, September 12, 2002

The ceremony at the Soldotna Police Department was not only a memorial for those who died on Sept. 11, 2001, it was for all the emergency responders who, every day, give to the community.

The small crowd waited in silence as the first siren sounded at 10:05 a.m., signifying American Airlines Flight 11's impact into the first tower of the World Trade Center one year ago.

Soldotna Police Chief Shirley Gifford led the ceremony by encouraging everyone not to forget the lives so ruthlessly taken.

Father Frank Reitter of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church told those attending to give admiration to the paramedics, firefighters and police who risked everything.

"Remember the horror, tragedy and violence that took so many lives," he said.

Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Dale Bagley continued the theme of heroism in his remarks.

"We learned about heroes ... the heroes who searched through the rubble," Bagley said.

Still there are more heroes, the people who serve every day, he said.

Gifford called all of the local first emergency responders to step forward and join the Soldotna police and asked them to face the crowd of nearly 30 people.

Soldotna Mayor Dave Carey's words echoed behind the line of responders.

The word hero has been used to describe those on the hijacked planes, at the Pentagon and at the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, he said.

But in Webster's Dictionary it says a hero is someone who is noted for feats of courage or nobility of purpose; especially, someone who has risked or sacrificed their life, he said.

"They are modest, sometimes embarrassed when called heroes," he said of the emergency responders. "They work with nobility and purpose."

The emergency responders deserve to be labeled heroes and nobles, he said, "because of their daily deeds."

Alaska State Trooper Lt. Charles Tressler said a prayer, followed by Central Emergency Services Chief Jeff Tucker reciting the firefighter's prayer.

Gifford brought the ceremony to an end.

"We remember this day for a lot of different reasons," she said. "It changes our lives forever. Those weak in mind, spirit and heart, they did not succeed."

Soldotna City Council member Audrey Porter asked if she could shake the hands of all the emergency responders facing the audience. She shook each of their hands in appreciation, as the audience followed.

The flag was raised to half-staff. Then the second siren rang through the air, representing the second World Trade Center tower being hit and its collapse.

"We don't realize how precious our freedom is," Porter said.

It was an emotional event for Kellie Towell, spectator and daughter of Soldotna Police Sgt. Marvin Towell.

"I wonder where people's priorities lay," she said.

"Everyone, was blaming others," she said about last year. "No one could control what happened."

Soldotna City Council member Jane Stein agreed.

"People shouldn't fault the country," she said. "They didn't know it would happen."

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