Ceremony honors those responders killed in the line of duty

Posted: Friday, September 12, 2008

Whether you were making the morning commute to work, sitting in second-period history class, or putting the final touches on a PB and J sandwich before the kids left for school, for many Americans, the memory of the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, is as fresh now as it was seven years ago.

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Photo By Mike Nesper
Photo By Mike Nesper
Kenai Fire Chief Mike Tilly addresses a crowd of about 30, made up of firefighters, police officers and the general public, commemorating the emergency service men and women who were killed on 9/11 on Thursday.

Members of the community, Kenai Fire Department employees and Kenai Police Department officers gathered at the KFD to celebrate Patriot Day and commemorate the emergency services men and women who lost their lives on 9/11. Kenai Fire Chief Mike Tilly began the ceremony at 10:05 a.m., the time at which the south tower of the World Trade Center collapsed.

"To symbolize the devotion that these brave souls had for their city and for their duty, to those that selflessly gave their lives for the good of their fellow man, their tasks completed, their duties well done, to our comrades, their last alarm, this ceremony is for them, they are going home," Tilly said.

Just as it was done 143 years ago to announce the death of President Abraham Lincoln, a bell was sounded to honor those who lost their lives on 9/11. Known as the "striking of four fives," a bell, which previously hung from Kenai's Engine 1, was struck in the pattern of five rings, repeated four times, with a silent pause between each series. This long-standing firefighter tradition was used to announce the death of firefighters that died in the line of duty or when important officials passed on.

The bell also signifies the beginning of each shift, alerts firefighters of an emergency and signals the completion of a call.

"The fire service today is an ever-changing world that is steeped in traditions over 200 years old," Tilly said.

"Feelings of anger, panic, anxiousness, helplessness, desperation, compassion, rage, sympathy, fear, and oddly, patriotism," were among the many emotions expressed by Kenai firefighters as Tilly reflected on 9/11. "We had all these different feelings as we watched our fellow firefighters respond to a call for need.

"Desperation was the emotion I remember feeling that day," Tilly said. "Having been to New York, having been to the top of the World Trade Center, and having been able to ride with the New York Fire Department, I watched with this feeling of impending doom.

"The men and women of today's fire service are confronted with a more dangerous work environment than ever before," he said. "We are forced to continue to change our strategies and tactics to be able to accomplish our tasks. Our methods may change but our goals remain the same as they were in the past: to save lives and protect property, sometimes at a terrible cost. This is what we do, this is our chosen profession, this is the tradition of a firefighter."

Mike Nesper can be reached at mike.nesper@peninsulaclarion.com.

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