Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Messages of hope -- Local ceremonies honor victims, call for resolve

From Daily Republic
By Ian Thompson and Barry Eberling

SUISUN CITY - Suisun City Police Chaplain James Scott told a small gathering Monday outside City Hall about his Sept. 11, 2001 experiences at Ground Zero, where he comforted rescue workers pulling bodies from the rubble.

But Scott took care that his message to the 70 or so police workers, city employees and onlookers was not one of dismay.

"I have hope," he said loudly and emphatically into the microphone, his voice reverberating on the buildings across the Suisun Channel.

The Suisun City Police Department inspection and awards ceremony was among the local events marking the five-year anniversary of Sept. 11. Vacaville and Travis Air Force Base also held ceremonies.

Vacaville paid homage to those who lost their lives on Sept. 11 with a short dignified morning ceremony in front of the police station next to its Public Safety Memorial.

Travis Air Force Base servicemembers honored not only those who died on five years ago, but the nearly 3,000 servicemembers who died since then in the War on Terror around the world in a somber ceremony.

Suisun City: 'This is what they wanted to destroy'

At the Suisun City ceremony, Scott told those assembled he was called to Ground Zero five years ago in his role as chaplain of the Spiritual Care Aviation Incident Response Team for the National Transportation Safety Board. He saw the tragedy up close, holding the helmets of crying firefighters who had dug bodies out of the wreckage of the World Trade Center.

"We would carefully load the broken body on a stretcher, the horn would sound, all work would stop and I would lead a parade of firefighters holding the stretcher slowly down the rugged, burning rubble," he said.

At one point, rescue crews found a fire engine amid the rubble that had been crushed. About four people in the cab were dead. Fifty to 100 firefighters kissed the engine before the trip to the morgue, Scott said.

"Then they returned to the pile, with the hope of finding one of their friends alive," he said.
Scott stressed the hope held by the rescue workers and the sacrifices they made. He saw God transforming a living hell, he said.

Suisun City Mayor Jim Spering also spoke. He depicted Sept. 11 as an event that struck close to home, even though New York is more than 2,500 miles away. The terrorists struck at the fabric of the country, he said.

"This is what they wanted to destroy - the freedoms we enjoy and these small communities that govern themselves," Spering said.

Travis: 'A national resolve'

At 60th Air Mobility Wing commander Travis Col. Steve Arquiette described the day as not only a remembrance, but as an opportunity to "reaffirm our resolve to combat the extremists" who still threaten this nation.

Arquiette told assembled servicemembers that Sept. 11 has given rise to "a national resolve to keep this nation safe as to fight the good fight as long as it takes."

Since Sept. 11, Travis aircraft have flown more than 25,000 missions supporting the war on terror and nearly all its servicemembers have competed tours overseas. Approximately 700 are deployed around the world, Arquiette said.

Arquiette talked about flying over Ground Zero a year after the attack and pondered how soon it would be before Americans would forget about the horrendous day.

"But we have not forgotten, nor will we ever," Arquiette said.

One of the ceremony's guests, Fairfield Mayor Harry Price, described the anniversary as "a very somber day."

Price said he is still much more vigilant whenever he flies "because the forces of evil have not gone away."

Vacaville: 'How could I not be here?'

In Vacaville, an empty table was next to the Public Safety Memorial, set for the civilian, firefighter, police officer and military member who will never dine there.

A local veteran lit the candle on the table while a Vacaville firefighter rung a brass bell, a ceremony called Striking of the Four Fives to honor all the firefighters who lost their lives in New York that day.

"This is a symbol of the sacrifice and to show that we have not forgotten," veteran Kathleen Herren said.

Vacaville Fire Engineer Stewart Baldaram, Vacaville Police Officer Otha Livingston, Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Bill Griesemer and Vacaville resident Bob Vollmer then laid their service hats and a folded flag at the table.

This was to honor all those who died that day in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.
"How could I not be here?" Vollmer said of why he participated.

Mark Helton and Rich Crockett were two of the people who made time out of their day for the ceremony, with Helton calling the ceremony "a fitting thing to do."

"(Sept. 11) heavily impacted my life," said Helton who was in the Air Force that day and has since served in Iraq. "It is important that we keep the memory of these people alive. It is easy for people to forget. We need to remember why we are fighting terrorism."

Crockett agreed, saying Sept. 11 caused him to take a deeper look at what brought America to that point and "examine the reality of the state of our world."

Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or at ithompson@dailyrepublic.net. Reach Barry Eberling at 425-4646 Ext. 232 or at beberling@dailyrepublic.net.

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