Monday, September 17, 2001

Butler firefighters, police, public join voices in prayer

By Janice Morse
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HAMILTON — As firefighters, police and Butler County citizens held a memorial service Sunday evening for victims of last week's terrorist attacks, emergency sirens wailed three different times.

        They were unplanned but timely reminders that emergency and safety crews' work goes on, no matter what.

        Several hundred people gathered at the Fallen Firefighters Monument — a statue of a firefighter cradling an infant — to pay their respects to those who died while trying to save others as the World Trade Center's towers came crashing down.

        “We all felt the loss and the helplessness,” said Hanover Township Fire Chief Phil Clark, president of the Butler County Fire Chiefs Association.

        Sunday's gathering underscored that “there are no answers but only more questions for a long time to come,” Chief Clark said.

        Hamilton Police Chief Neil Ferdelman, whose grandfather was a fire captain and whose father was a police lieutenant, called lifesaving efforts “our sacred obligation.”

        Ministers led the crowd — many of whom had patriotic ribbons pinned to their clothing — in prayer.

        “We thank you for gatherings like this, which show the true will of the people,” the Rev. Gary Gabbard prayed to God.

        Throughout the ceremony, firefighters in dress uniform stood beneath an American flag that was suspended between the crossed ladders of two fire trucks. Dozens of police and firefighters stood somberly, wearing black mourning straps over their badges.

        A fire bell tolled in memory of the fallen firefighters. A bagpiper played Amazing Grace.

        And a helicopter flew overhead in a ceremonial flyover.

        Dismissing the somber crowd, the Rev. Jim Kowalski said, “Let us go in peace.”


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