Special ceremony planned
Years ago, when firefighters were needed to go to an emergency, a bell was rung 10 times at the fire hall.
On Sept. 11 at the Brainerd Fire Hall, a bell will again be rung 10 times to signify the start of the memorial service for the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
The service will begin at 1 p.m. on East River Road between the fire hall and Brainerd Police Station and is open to everyone.
Brainerd Fire Chief Kevin Stunek said he started planning what could be done this year almost immediately after last year’s 9/11 memorial service at the Brainerd American Legion on Front Street.
“The 10th anniversary is huge, it’s an important thing,” Stunek said. He said there were 68 people at the 2010 ceremony, including the speakers, and this year he’s hoping for double or triple that number.
After the ringing of the bell to start the ceremony, the Brainerd American Legion Post, Brainerd VFW Post and the Brainerd Fire Department colors guards will present the flags, with all Brainerd firefighters — half in their firefighting gear and half in dress uniforms — carrying a large flag to be hoisted up a ladder truck.
Presentation of colors will be followed by Donald Mink, a chaplain with the Brainerd American
Legion acting as emcee of the event; the Pledge of Allegiance; and an opening prayer by Karen Dubord of Essentia Health.
Sheriff Todd Dahl will offer greetings to guests that are expected to include the mayors of Brainerd and Baxter, the Brainerd and Baxter Police Departments, the sheriff’s department, State Patrol, North Ambulance and Brainerd Fire Department. A representative of each will be standing at attention during the presentation of colors.
Stunek will address the crowd by having them look at the Northstar Apartment high-rise to the south and asking them to imagine it being struck by an airplane like the 100-story Twin Towers were on Sept. 11, 2001.
“It’s so surreal to think about that,” Stunek said.
Another point he will make is that in the Cuyuna Range Fire Department Association, which is made up of 13 area fire departments, there are 344 firefighters. On 9/11, 343 firefighters lost their lives in New York City.
“It’s the equivalent of wiping out every firefighter in our area, except one. I want them to think about that and to picture that,” Stunek said.
The main speaker for the ceremony will be Baxter Police Officer Clayton Barg, who Stunek said will share emotional experiences related to 9/11.
The ceremony will close with a fly-over by a North AirCare helicopter, sounding of sirens for fallen emergency personnel with bagpipes by firefighter Jake McClellan, a 21-gun salute by the American Legion and VFW, taps and a closing prayer.
The ceremony’s end will be signified by a single ring of the bell, which signifies that firefighters have returned to the station and are ready for the next emergency, Stunek said.
Stunek said he can remember exactly where he was on Sept. 11, 2001, and he remembered not feeling safe watching the events in New York City unfold. He also described the terrorist attacks as surreal.
“It was almost like watching a movie, like, ‘Naw, this can’t be happening,’” Stunek said.
“Every year I think about it. You don’t forget the images, you don’t forget the people. I’ve been in burning building, as a department we’ve rescued people, saved people. We know what it’s like to be running into a burning building when everybody’s running out. We all do — firefighters, police, ambulance. We’re all connected, a family. That’s why its important to remember those we’ve lost.”
MATT ERICKSON may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5857.