Tucson fire & police honor 9/11 heroes, victims
'A day of pause to remember lost souls'
In a trio of commemorations, Tucson's firefighters, police and ordinary citizens paid tribute Sunday morning to the heroes and victims of the terrorist attacks of a decade ago.
While the nation marked the 10th anniversary of the attacks that destroyed the World Trade Center, set the Pentagon ablaze and saw an airliner crash in a Pennsylvania field, Tucsonans gathered for somber observances of their own.
At Fire Central, firefighters remembered their lost brothers by tolling a bell three times.
At the TPD headquarters, three volleys were fired by police riflemen.
And at Reid Park, after remarks by dignitaries and the singing of "God Bless America," a flyover by a pair of Arizona Air National Guard F-16s set a crowd of hundreds cheering.
The Tucson Fire Department's pipes and drums accompanied the color guard at each ceremony.
Bagpipes set the tone of the morning, as the massed pipers played "Amazing Grace" after the American flag was raised to half-staff and a memorial wreath was laid at the 8 a.m. ceremony at Fire Department headquarters, 300 S. Fire Central Place.
Before the pipers struck into the mournful tune, the headquarters bell was rung in three sets of three, in memory of the 343 firefighters who died in the Sept. 11 attacks.
Despite the deaths, and the deaths of the 60 police officers who were killed on 9/11, "All of our first responders are still there," said Fire Chief Jim Critchley.
"We're all ready to serve the community, whether it be in New York or Pennsylvania or Virgina, or Tucson, Arizona — everybody has kept that same vision, that same idea of service," he said.
After the ceremony, the pipers led the honor guard and uniformed public safety officers on a measured march to the front of police headquarters, a few blocks away at 270 S. Stone Ave.
There, the Stars and Stripes was again raised to the top of the flagpole, and lowered to half-staff.
Seven TPD riflemen fired three volleys, and a bugler played "Taps."
After laying a memorial wreath, Police Chief Roberto Villaseñor spoke.
"Ten years ago today, at 8:46 a.m. New York time, our world changed forever," he said.
"Like many of you, much of this past week, I have found myself looking back at the events of a decade ago. It's hard to believe that so much time has passed. It is even harder to admit, that despite that length of time, the wound is still fresh and easily opened," he said.
"On that day, thousands of New York City police and firefighters rushed toward the burning buildings, when common sense would tell them to run away. That is the true definition of courage," Villaseñor said.
"It is right that we engage in ceremonies such as this to demonstrate our remembrance of past events and our commitment to future action," he said.
Following the chief's remarks, a parade of fire trucks and police vehicles swept down Broadway, lights flashing as they drove to Reid Park.
After 9/11, "out of chaos and tragedy came hope. Our country came together as never before," said John Green, speaking to a crowd of about 300 at the DeMeester Outdoor Performance Center.
Green spoke of his daughter, who was killed in the Jan. 8 mass shooting that left six dead and wounded 13, including U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
"Christina-Taylor Green was born on Sept. 11, 2001, and died on Jan. 8, 2011 - two of the most tragic days in recent American history," he said.
"Happy birthday, Christina," he said. "We love you, and we miss you."
"Christina-Taylor Green carried the light of 9/11 with her until the day she died." Green said.
"The light of her spirit, her hopes and dreams, are alive and well in the Tucson community."
"She taught us not only to dream big, but to do so while caring for others," Green said. "For all the evil in the world, there are many, many good people here amongst us."
"It's painful to remember our loved ones who are no longer with us. Let's do them the honor of making this a better world to live in," he said.
"This day is a matter of remembrance, reflection, prayer and commitment," said Mayor Bob Walkup.
"We must say a prayer for all those people who continue to fight for the freedom of this country," he said.
"Perhaps this is the time that we can say to ourselves, 'Have I shown enough kindness and generosity and compassion to the people in our lives?'" Walkup paraphrased the January memorial speech given by President Barack Obama in Tucson.
"Those words... are as valid today as (they were) back on Jan. 12," he said.
Dr. Richard Carmona, a former U.S. surgeon general and Pima County Sheriff's deputy, said the 10th anniversary of 9/11 was a "day of pause to remember lost souls and celebrate those who humbly, anonymous, quietly and professionally protect our health, safety and security on a daily basis."