Remembering the fallen

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 12, 2002

It was a solemn ceremony of remembrance and reflection Wednesday at the Ironton Fire Department's Sept. 11 memorial service.

"Taps," played by retired Army man Martin Smith, echoed across the blue sky. The U.S. flag fluttered in the soft breeze as it was lowered to half-mast at the beginning of the service.

The street was blocked off in front of the fire station as more than 100 people filled Fourth and Jefferson streets.

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"This is not for us," Ironton Fire Chief Tom Runyon said. "It is for remembrance of all those who died that day. It is a day of reflection."

The firefighters were very pleased with the attendance and the public's show of support.

Steve Harvey, pastor from Sharon Baptist Church, opened the ceremony with a prayer and encouraged everyone to never forget the events of last year.

"We need to remember. It is good to remember," Harvey said. "These men were doing what they do naturally, but became heroes to all of us."

A year ago,

firefighters were devastated by their loss, but have bonded together and risen to meet the challenge, Capt. Mike Mahlmeister said.

"I think that fire services is as strong as it has ever been," he said.

"I don't know if it will ever bring closure," Mahlmeister said. "I really don't think it should be closed. We need to remember what happened."

The biggest change in fire services has been an increased awareness and preparation to handle any type of situation, he said.

"Even though people think it is not going to happen in Ironton, Ohio, those people living in Pennsylvania didn't think it could happen there either," he said.

Flight 93 actually flew over Lawrence County before turning around and eventually crashing into a southwestern Pennsylvania field, Mahlmeister said.

Richard Chandler of Southeast Ohio Emergency Medical Service presented the department with a framed poem written by Sandra L. Baker, also an employee of SEOEMS.

Representatives from the Ironton Elks 177 presented the fire department with plaques honoring them and all their brothers and sisters who gave their life.

Capt. Jerry Leach of the Ironton Police Department and Father Thomas Nau of St. Joseph Catholic Church also spoke at the ceremony.

The station bell was rang at the exact times that the World Trade Center Towers collapsed to honor the 343 firefighters and 33 police officers who gave their lives. They sounded out five measured dashes, a pause, five measured dashes, a pause then five measured dashes.

A tradition that began before the era of computers and telephones, stations used the telegraph to notify other stations when a firefighter was killed in the line of duty. It came to be known as the Tolling of the Bell.

"A lot of people have a need to support and to be out there with other Americans remembering those who lost their lives," Runyon said. "We have lost a lot, but it is time to move on."

Ed Hasenauer's son, Michael, is a captain in the Ironton Fire Department. Ed said he thought the ceremony was impressive and that everyone was touched by it.

"The fire department is a brotherhood," he said. "Even though they didn't know any of these people you never get over it. You just learn to live with it."

Runyon said he believes this event has as much significance as any moment in our history.

"We lost the battle," he said. "Through a cowardice act, we were attacked, but we are winning the war." Michael Caldwell/The Ironton Tribune