Southport Remembers 9/11
The City of Southport’s remembrance ceremony on the 20th anniversary of 9/11 made an impact.
The morning of September 11, 2001, was a bright, sunny day without a cloud in sight. So, too, dawned September 11, 2021, the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on our nation by Al Qaeda. The City of Southport remembered the sacrifices made by first responders this past September 11 with a meaningful display and an impactful remembrance ceremony.
Three hundred forty-three pairs of empty firefighters’ boots, each pair topped with a small U.S. flag, were carefully placed in lines on the apron in front of the Southport Fire Department (SFD) Headquarters to honor the lives of firefighters lost that day. Sixty “Thin Blue Line” American flags graced the grassy area between the fire and police departments in memory of the 23 New York City Police Department and 37 Port Authority Police Department officers that lost their lives. And eight Stars of Life were displayed on the opposite side of the apron commemorating the loss of eight emergency medical technicians and paramedics from NYC private EMS providers.
Accompanied by the tolling of a fire bell struck three times by Fire Marshal Madison Drew, SFD Tower 360 raised a large American flag over N. Howe Street in front of the fire department at 8:46 am, the time when American Airlines Flight 11 was flown into the north tower of the World Trade Center (WTC). Tower 361, parked opposite from Tower 360, unfurled a U.S. flag at 9:03 am, also accompanied by three strikes of the fire bell, at the same time that United Airlines Flight 175 crashed into the south tower of the WTC.
SFD Chief Charles A. Drew opened the ceremony at 9 am, followed by an invocation given by Fire Department Chaplain Rodney Cox. Fire Marshal Drew then sang a moving a cappella rendition of the National Anthem. Southport Mayor JP Hatem welcomed those in attendance, and Southport Police Department Chief Todd Coring provided a tribute to the 60 law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty on 9/11.
Chief Drew reflected on the fallen firefighters and EMS workers and explained the significance of the boots.
“I remember seeing pictures of the empty shoes at fire stations that they never returned to,” Drew said. “Today, there are 343 [pairs of] empty boots here representing the lives of those heroic men and women. As we look at these empty boots, let us never forget our hearts are not empty, but we carry their memory, their service, their commitment, their bravery and dedication with us each time the alarm sounds.”
Chief Drew acknowledged the continuing risk and sacrifices made by first responders today, saying, “My faith in humanity is renewed each day when I hear the call for help given, and our first responders are ready to serve, still not knowing what their fate may be or if they will return home safe.”
Before the ceremony began, SFD Firefighter Chris Geho, who was in fifth grade on 9/11, remembered, “They would not let us see what the grownups were watching. I snuck into the library and watched it anyway. I thought it was a movie.”
He explained that remembering the fallen from 9/11 makes him angry. “9/11 could have been prevented. People knew things [about terrorist threats] before and they should have been planned for. That’s what I like about the fire service: We’re always planning in advance for the worst to happen, so we are prepared to respond when it does.”
SFD Firefighter Joshua Creech, who was born after the events of 9/11 occurred, said that he always thinks about his firefighter brothers and sisters that gave the ultimate sacrifice. He was bothered by one thing, though: “My teachers never spent an entire day studying the events of 9/11 in school. At best, there was a very brief mention. I think that an entire day should be spent teaching and discussing how this happened and how it changed our country.”
After Chief Drew’s remarks, a wreath was laid, the fire bell was tolled and “Taps” was performed by Fire Marshal Madison Drew on the bugle. Chief Drew thanked the sponsors, and Fire Department Chaplain Rodney Cox closed the ceremony with a benediction.
A U.S. flag was lowered on the front of the fire department building at 9:37 am, the same time that American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon. Another flag was unfurled on the fire department building at 10:03 am to mark the time that United Airlines Flight 93 was crashed into a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Courageous, unarmed passengers, alerted by cell phone to the other terrorist attacks of that morning, attempted to wrest control of the aircraft from the hijackers to prevent it from being used as a weapon. They were successful.
Bystander Christopher Martin, retired after 27 years as an Ohio police officer, said that he has been at 9/11 ceremonies for 20 consecutive years since 9/11 and that Southport’s was “outstanding.”
When he reflects upon those terrorist attacks, he said that it makes him “scared” for his family, the very same feelings that he experienced on 9/11.
Chief Drew’s closing remarks echoed the thoughts of so many on this date: “To our fallen brothers and sisters, we will never forget. God Bless their families, and God Bless this Great United States of America.”