John Landua, bows his head during a moment of silence for those who perished.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
Tears flowed and heads bowed as the first clear note of the bell rang out above the crowd. In memory of the firefighters who gave their lives on Sept. 11, 2001, Battalion Chief Greg Coon struck the bell five times, paused, and struck it another five times, paused again and repeated the sequence two more times.
"I impress upon the guys to learn their heritage," said Kenai Fire Chief Mike Tilly. "It shows respect and honor for members of the service."
For the ceremony, Tilly reached back to a time when a bell called men to their shifts, relayed announcements and marked the passing of a fellow firefighter. Tilly said the specific code used to announce the death of a firefighter began with Abraham Lincoln's assassination in 1865. It is a sequence of five tones repeated four times with a short pause in between.
Tilly stood underneath the U.S. and state flag, flown at half mast, in dress uniform. Behind him among a plethora of wine-red flowers stood three battered fire helmets.
Kenai Fire Department Battalion Chief Greg Coon, rings a bell four sequences of five rings to honor emergency workers who were felled in the terrorist attacks Sept. 11, 2001, during a ceremony in front of the department's headquarters Tuesday afternoon.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
"These helmets represent our brothers and sisters (lost) in 9/11," he said, adding that the firefighters of 9/11 were proof that each day firefighters face a more serious work environment than in previous years.
After the bell sounded and the crowd observed a moment of silence, Tilly read the Fireman's Prayer. Even though Tilly personally didn't go to New York to help with the rescue efforts after the terrorist attacks, two of his cousins did.
Tilly compared the bell ceremony to Morse Code and said despite the advance of technology, many volunteer fire departments still rely on a system of bells and sirens to alert their firefighters. The sequence used to mark the death of a firefighter is known as the Four-Fives, he said.
"It just has a particular meaning," he said.
The bell, helmets and hybrid were on display for the rest of the day Tuesday. Tilly also said Gov. Sarah Palin authorized flying the state flag at half mast until the end of the day.
"(It's) a national ceremony, a day of respect," Tilly said. "We'll never forget."
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