9/11 Remembrance: Words fail to capture scope of loss and courageous response
Updated 1:12 pm, Friday, September 11, 2015
For the 14th time, members of the Police and Fire departments, joined by the public, gathered in front of Fire Department headquarters Friday morning for the town’s annual 9/11 Remembrance Ceremony in tribute to the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
It was, Police Chief Gary MacNamara said, becoming harder to find words that had not already been spoken about the men and women who lost their lives in the terrorist attacks that day.
“Every day is Sept. 10 to us,” MacNamara said. “We never know when that Sept. 11th will be. Hopefully, Sept. 11 never occurs again.”
MacNamara noted that since the day of the attacks, 42 new police officers have joined the local department, plus seven new telecommunicators. Even after the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001, he said, men and women are still willing to put their lives at risk to help protect others.
“Today is a day that we think of all the first responders who died protecting us, and keep them in our thoughts and our prayers,” First Selectman Michael Tetreau said, who also thanked retiring Fire Chief Richard Felner, who has organized the 9/11 memorial ceremony each year. “Thank you for literally spending your entire career looking out for our community,” Tetreau said to Felner, who officially steps down as of Oct. 1.
While politicians speak on Sept. 11 about the courage of first responders at the scene of the attacks, Firefighter William Tuttle, vice president of the local firefighters’ union, asked that they show courage of their own by standing up for those who still suffer the effects of that day, and for those who have jobs that call for them to run into burning buildings or face armed suspects.
Post-traumatic stress disorder, and increased rates of cancers are just two of those effects, he said.
“We say, ‘Never forget,’ ” Tuttle said. “We need to show we never forget ... Put your words into action. Please stand up for those that are still dying today.”
Tuttle spoke of a member of Fairfield’s Fire Department, who battled cancer for two years. “He showed great courage in the face of death,” he said. “This brave man got his cancer from work, a a statistical medical fact proven by decades of peer reviewed science, recognized in many states as a workplace injury.” That firefighter was lucky, and continues to live to fight another day, Tuttle said, in part because the department extended his sick time and allowed others to work in his place.
“No firefighter should ever have to worry about losing his job due to a workplace injury,” Tuttle said. “He should always know that the public and the politicians who represent them had his back, that they mean those speeches about respect and admiration.”
Felner said even though many people who saw the images of planes crashing into the World Trade Center, and the horror that unfolded, “What we don’t see are the tears cried at night ... We don’t see the empty chairs at the end of the table. Yet, every firefighter or police officer knows or feels that loss of our brothers in blue ... We all knew them because they are us.”
There are still evil doers, Probate Judge Daniel Caruso said, who reject this nation’s ideals of equality and liberty. “We’re here to recommit ourselves to that,” he said. “The struggle against evil will continue, but so will we.”
State Sen. Tony Hwang said he remembers how people, no matter their political ideology or their race or religion, came together in the days that followed the 2001 attacks.
“I think that is something we need to recapture,” Hwang said, “and that is something that typifies the greatness of our country.”