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‘True meaning of courage’

By ESTHER K. SMITH

News staff writer

September 13, 2006

Hood River paid tribute to the victims and heroes of Sept. 11 Monday evening, the fifth anniversary of that fateful day in 2001 when life changed for all Americans.

“It occurred to me that people all over the country are gathering today to do this same thing,” Mayor Linda Streich said in her welcoming speech. “Some at this very moment.”

Following a procession of vehicles representing all emergency responders — firefighters, law enforcement officials and medics — from West Cascade to the Expo Center, nearly 400 community members filled the cavernous room to remember the tragic day. They also came to show appreciation to local emergency workers who devote their lives to serving others.

A video presentation consisting of a montage of still images of the event, including photos of many of the victims and heroes, combined with audio clips from newscasts and other recordings from the day, brought back the horrific morning as though no time had passed.

Following Streich’s opening remarks, Rep. Patti Smith, R-Corbett, served as mistress of ceremonies for the evening. She reviewed the timeline of events and introduced the night’s speakers, which included the Rev. Gary Young, who gave the invocation; Hood River’s Assistant Fire Chief Devon Wells; Police Chief Bruce Ludwig, Sheriff Joe Wampler; retired National Guard First Sgt. Leroy Himes; and Roger Nelson, who was on the scene the next day as a Red Cross volunteer.

“Tonight we have an unexpected but welcome guest who flew in to make a special presentation to Hood River County,” Smith added. “Congressman Greg Walden flew in today with a 9/11 tribute that he can tell you more about.”

Walden brought with him a flag which had flown over the nation’s capital on the first anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. He presented the memorial flag and accompanying certificate to Hood River County Commissioner Carol York.

Wells remembered how, the day after the attack, community members started showing their appreciation for the job that local firefighters were doing. People would stop him on the street — or come into the Hood River station — to say ‘thank you,’ he said.

Sheriff Joe Wampler profiled a couple of the emergency responders who perished while helping people survive that day, and described how it felt to watch helplessly as all of those responders did their duty and saved as many lives as possible.

“Tonight we are gathered here to pay our respects to the emergency responders who died fulfilling their duty on Sept. 11, 2001,” he said. “I hope that, as you pay remembrance to the loss of life that day, you feel reassured about the commitment that is made on your behalf by your local police, firefighters and medics.

“I am proud of the courage and valor exhibited by our own on the morning of Sept. 11,” he added. “May they never be forgotten.”

Police Chief Bruce Ludwig quoted Gen. George Patton, “If we take the generally accepted definition of bravery as a quality which knows not fear, I have never seen a brave man.

“All men are frightened. The more intelligent they are, the more they are frightened. The courageous man is the man who forces himself in spite of his fear, to carry on.”

“Sept. 11, 2001, was a day that changed life for all of us,” Ludwig said. “On that day we meet the worst of humanity with the best of humanity. And we learned the true meaning of courage through the sacrifices made by Officer Clinton Davis (one of the Twin Tower casualties) and many others. May we never forget the day where hundreds of innocent civilians, police, firefighters and medics received a death sentence just for being Americans.”

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