Scores of firefighters and other emergency personnel from Healdsburg and throughout Sonoma County joined residents and officials in dedicating a monument Tuesday at to those who died in the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks.
"Let us honor our lessons from that day, and never forget the sacrifices made," said Healdsburg Fire Capt. Jason Boaz, one of more than a half dozen speakers at the
"It was the end of innocence," Boaz added. "The events of that day shaped the next decade in the lives of everyone -- including our lives in Healdsburg."
The monument, which faces Center Street, is a five-sided column that holds a steel I-beam from the Twin Towers. The I-beam was sent to Healdsburg by the New York Fire Department after years of efforts and
"This is how Healdsburg works," said event master of ceremonies and civic volunteer Ray Holley,
"This 90-pound piece of steel represents our community's commitment to remember, and to heal and acknowledge our grief and loss," Holley said. "May it inspire healing and reconciliation."
Other speakers included Healdsburg Mayor Gary Plass, Sonoma County Supervisor Mike McGuire, Healdsburg Police Sgt. Luis Rodriguez, Healdsburg artist Bob Johnson and former St. Paul's Episcopal Church rector Marvin Bowers.
"We remember the police officers and firefighters who ran toward those buildings," Bowers said. "Thank you to them for being the light in the face of darkness."
Key to the ceremony Tuesday was the reading of 441 names of firefighters, police and other emergency first responders who lost their lives on 9/11. Christopher Helgren, Sonoma County Emergency Manager, Zachary Hamill, Emergency Coordinator for Sonoma County Fire and Mike Jacobs, Healdsburg Fire Department reserve firefighter, shared the task of reading the names in groups of about 60 in between each speaker.
"I can only imagine what it was like for those guys having to go in those buildings," said Gary Greenough of Santa Rosa, a 22-year volunteer firefighter with the Rincon Valley Fire Department who wore a special 9/11 motorcycle jacket to Tuesday's ceremony. "Those 343 firefighters who lost their lives -- those are my brothers."
Students at Healdsburg High School worked with local builders -- such as general contractor and Planning Commissioner Jerry Eddinger -- and designers to create the memorial, which is being financed for about $3,000 by former Healdsburg resident Fred Vellutini, who lost a grandson-in-law in 9/11.
According to Holley, the five sides of the column represent the Pentagon, which was also attacked on Sept. 11, 2001. A five-sided brick pattern on the ground around the column represents the five boroughs of New York City. The grass around the monument signifies the field in Pennsylvania where a plane hijacked by terrorists went down.
"It's awesome," said one of the firefighters from Sonoma County Fire Department who attended the ceremony in uniform, along with dozens of others. Military veterans from various U.S. Armed Forces segments also attended in uniform.
Holley said he remembered Healdsburg residents automatically gathering in the Plaza the night of Sept. 11, 2001.
"I was struck that even with all our differences, there was a true commonality," Holley said. "One one side, people were singing 'America the Beautiful,' and on the other side, they were singing 'Give Peace a Chance.'"
Boaz, in his speech, quoted the late Joseph Campbell:
"He said, 'A hero is someone who has given himself to something bigger than himself,'" Boaz said.
"We may have been far away from the events of 9/11 out here in Healdsburg, but in our hearts and minds we could never be closer," Boaz said "Sept. 11 affected all of us."