The Monday morning sun caught the prism-like glass facets of the Edmonds Fallen Firefighter Memorial, casting a bright red, white and blue pattern on the memorial’s centerpiece — a broken section of girder that once formed part of the steel skeleton supporting the twin towers of lower Manhattan’s World Trade Center. It’s been 16 years since the terrorist attacks that leveled both towers, but the memories live forever in the people it touched.
As the community has each year since that awful day, Edmonds came together in the morning sunlight to remember the more than 3,000 people who lost their lives that day, and to honor the 434 firefighters, 60 police officers, and 10 EMTs who selflessly ran into the collapsing inferno, never to emerge.
Monday’s ceremonies began promptly at 9:11 am with the raising of the flag by an honor guard of firefighters. Master of ceremonies Dave “Bronco” Erickson told the story of the memorial to the crowd of approximately 70 citizens, firefighters, police and government officials who had gathered for the event.
“There is much symbolism here,” said Erickson. “The two glass and stainless steel panels contain 3,000 facets, one for each person lost that day. Fallen firefighters and police are represented by red and blue facets respectively. These and the clear facets are arranged to evoke the American flag, and as the sunlight passes through they cast an ever-changing pattern on the gnarled girder that forms the memorial’s centerpiece. The girder rests on a five-sided base, recognizing the simultaneous attack that morning on the Pentagon. Four trees planted at each corner of the grounds remember the four planes hijacked that day, and the fresh green growth they add each year reminds us that we will never forget the souls who perished on those aircraft.”
Special guest this year was firefighter Andy Speier. Before coming to Washington, Speier served for many years with the New York City Fire Department, stationed in lower Manhattan.
“I was teaching a class here in Washington on first response to building collapse when I got word of the World Trade Center attacks,” he related. “I called my old station in New York to ask about my brother and sister firefighters and was told that they were out responding to the disaster and no one knew where or how they were. I asked about the engine equipment and got the same response. I immediately knew I had to go back. I called my chief and he just said ‘go.’ I was back there for three weeks helping with all aspects of response. I’ve never seen more horrible, hellish destruction, grief and pain. It was like another time, another world.”
Speier was followed on the podium by newly-appointed Fire District 1 Chief Bruce Stedman and Edmonds Mayor Dave Earling, both of whom reflected on the significance of the day and the debt owed to our first responders.
Originally comprising the Fallen Firefighter sculpture and flagpole, the Edmonds Fallen Firefighter Memorial honors all firefighters who have lost their lives in the line of duty. It had long been Dave Erickson’s vision to expand the memorial, and when artifacts from the World Trade Center became available in 2011, he saw the chance to realize this dream. Traveling to New York, obtaining the one-ton steel beam, and personally accompanying it back to Edmonds, Erickson took the first step in creating the memorial that stands today.
After several years of planning and fundraising, renovation work began in 2015. With local firefighters supplying the labor, the memorial was readied just in time for that year’s 9-11 observance and dedication.
Returning to the podium to close the event, Erickson thanked the participants and observers for being part of this 16th observance of the 9-11 terrorist attacks.
“This is your memorial,” he reminded the audience. “It’s a place for you to sit and remember all who fell that day, from first responders to office workers. It’s a place to find peace and solace.”
— Story and photos by Larry Vogel