Monday, June 24, 2024

Wilmington firefighters honor fallen brethren on Sept. 11

Members of the Wilmington Fire Department participate in a Sept. 11 memorial Tuesday at the Empie Park fire station.
Members of the Wilmington Fire Department participate in a Sept. 11 memorial Tuesday at the Empie Park fire station.

WILMINGTON — They stood silently, stoically—gilded shovels in hand—as the sound of bagpipes playing “Amazing Grace” permeated the fall air.

Eleven years have passed since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, but on Tuesday members of the Wilmington Fire Department paid tribute to their fallen comrades—those lost on Sept. 11 and those lost throughout the life of the Wilmington Fire Department.

At a memorial service at the new Empie Park fire station, Wilmington Fire Chief Buddy Martinette read the names of seven firefighters lost from their department.

“This memorial is important to our department. It is important because there are members of our department family who have come before us, and in providing services to our community, gave up their lives. They paid the ultimate sacrifice of losing their life, while leaving behind grieving families and distraught co-workers,” Martinette said.

As Martinette read each name and accompanying story, a bell was tolled and a firefighter’s gilded shovel moved dirt that by next year will be a memorial.

The memorial, which is scheduled to be complete by Sept. 11, 2013, will feature a 6-foot bronze statue of a firefighter lifting a piece of steel recovered from the World Trade Center.

“As a firefighter, all of us are proud of what [the steel] represents and what it symbolizes about the men who lost their lives that day. I personally lost many close friends that day, and to be able to memorialize them in some way is something I want to see happen for this community,” Martinette said.

Seven pairs of bronze boots will surround the memorial, which will have gardens and benches throughout.

“When the steel arrived, and a small group of us began discussing how and in what way we would display the steel, it began very apparent that in our tribute to the 343 firefighters who lost their lives on Sept. 11, we were failing to recognize our own fire personnel who had died in the line of duty. It was at that moment that all of us involved knew what we needed to do with that piece of steel—we needed to find a way to honor our colleagues from New York, and, at the same time, honor our fallen brothers,” Martinette said.

A committee was appointed, and community members have helped fund the memorial.

“While it is that Trade Center piece of steel that will be at the center of this memorial, it is the symbolism of that steel that pays tribute to all firefighters—strong enough to support even the heaviest of loads, tough enough to stand even the most grave conditions, resilient enough to bend but not break under the pressures of the duties we so willingly perform. This is what the heart of this memorial is—everything that is good and honorable about being a firefighter,” Martinette said.

Wilmington firefighters who will be honored in the memorial are Assistant Chief William P. Monroe, Chief Charles Schnibben, Lt. Raymond D. Core, Lt. Emmett A. Williamson, firefighter Oscar D. Willis, Capt. Burleigh Scotton and Assistant Chief Harold L. Sandlin.

Donations for the memorial are still being sought from the community.  For more information, visit www.wfdfirefightersmemorial.org.

 

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