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Sept. 11: My brothers went to battle

September 14, 2011

Remembrance and healing highlighted three memorial events held Sunday in Hood River to mark the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

Between 30 and 50 people attended each of the events: a memorial service at Anderson's Tribute Center hosted by Gorge Heroes Club; a morning worship service at Immanuel Lutheran Church; and a potluck and interfaith gathering at Wilson Park.

"While pondering the events of 9/11 from 10 years ago, I thought about the lives of my brothers that died that day," Hood River Chief Devon Wells said Sunday.

"Their wives, their kids, their parents, their friends. It hurts to feel that," said Wells, who spoke to more than a dozen first responders and about 20 other citizens at Anderson Tribute Center. At the nearby Immanuel service, Wells was also among six first responders honored. Wells spoke again on Sunday during a moment of remembrance as part of the Hood River Rotary Golf Tournament at Indian Creek (see photo).

"It's been just an honor in that the community is coming together to recognize the service everybody does," said Hood River volunteer firefighter Nathan Smith, after the service at Immanuel, led by Pastor Jeff Mueller. "To have people know that we're out there protecting and serving them, with all our hearts. It's what we do. It's absolutely a great gesture that Pastor Jeff did," said Smith, a 21-year volunteer.

Mueller said the gathering had three reasons: to remember those who died, "to remember our local heroes who also put their lives on the line for all our sake, 24/7," and to pray.

At Wilson Park, about 50- people from around the Gorge shared a potluck meal and then heard from people of Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Jewish, Bahai and Unitarian faiths.

"It was a strong affirmation that we need each other, and that in all our differences we share a common commitment to bring a more peaceful world," said Pastor John Boonstra of the sponsoring Gorge Ecumenical Ministries.

"It was an important event to have people reflect on our responses over the last decade," said Boonstra.

In his sermon at Immanuel, Mueller said that American society puts great emphasis on "celebrities and sports stars who will never know what it's like to be a true American hero. But we are here today to remember 411 American heroes: the 343 firefighters, 60 police officers and eight paramedics who gave their lives at Ground Zero."

After the Immanuel service, Kelsey Wells, 14, said, "It meant a lot to me, actually, just to think of all the other families who have lost their dads, thinking of losing my dad, that's a big deal for me." Kelsey is the daughter of Devon Wells.

In his speech later that day at Anderson's, Wells said, "We in the fire service understand that we face dangerous situations; that is our job.

"However, this was an event that had never been considered. It is still impossible to plan and train for an event of this magnitude, even today with the lessons we have learned. But my brothers went to battle, like they do every day, to save innocent lives."

Jack Trumbull of Anderson's said "It is a wonderful opportunity any time we have the chance to honor those firefighters and others who served and also honor those who are helping today.

"The service was a fitting tribute in regard to both those who died and those who serve," he said.

"We focused on our heroes, our first responders," Trumbull said, noting that many children were present, including the Boy Scouts who presented the colors.

"It's like our Veterans Day service," Trumbull said. "Anytime we can teach tomorrow's leaders how to honor and pay respect it's a good thing."

"You represent a whole lot more of our local heroes," Mueller said. "You are representing the love and support we have for all of you in the fire, police, sheriff's department and state police,"' Mueller said. "We want to make sure you all know we thank all of you for your ongoing service."

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