In the agency’s 15th annual ceremony to mark the terror attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, Cowlitz 2 Fire & Rescue Chief Dave LaFave drew a special lesson from the people aboard United Airlines Flight 93.
The passengers of that doomed flight wrestled control of the aircraft from terrorists who wanted to fly it into the White House or the U.S. Capitol. The plane crashed in an empty field near Shanksville, Pa., killing the crew of seven, 33 passengers and four hijackers.
“Those people had a choice: They could ride that airplane as a weapon, or they could overcome the people who were on that airplane and they could do whatever they could do to prevent that from happening,” LaFave said. “In the end, they chose death, but it was their choice. But what they also chose is that a lot of other people would live, because they weren’t going to let that aircraft crash into something and take a bunch of other lives. They (pressed forward,) and that’s very inspiring.”
LaFave said everyone should be inspired by the Flight 93 passengers, the first responders who died in the World Trade Center in New York and those who rescued people at the Pentagon to have courage in the face of horror.
“Even when you’re afraid, you have to saddle up and you’ve gotta ride,” LaFave said. “That’s just the truth. It sucks, but that’s the reality of it. You can drag your pockets, or you can pull up your bootstraps and move forward.”
LaFave also spoke about acceptance.
“Sometimes, we’re afraid to be tolerant,” LaFave said. “Sometimes, the wave of the crowd is going a certain direction, and it’s easier to get on that wave, and it’s easier to go that direction. Sometimes, we judge people by the whole and not by the individual.”
He said afterward that he meant to criticize those those who condemn all people of Muslim faith based on the actions of a few extremist terrorists.
The speech concluded with LaFave thanking firefighters, EMT and other members of Cowlitz 2 for their bravery and dedication.
“Thank you for what you do, I’m proud every day,” he said. “I frankly can’t thank you enough for what you do, and I’ll use the events of 9/11 as an inspiration to keep moving forward and do what needs to be done.”
After his speech, four honor guard officers — Dave Cooper, Jeff Fix, Neil Agren, Darryl Arrera and Kirk Meller — raised the American flag, then lowered it to half-mast. Afterwards, the station bell rang several times.
The ceremony closed with bagpiper Clyde Carpenter playing “Amazing Grace.”
Chaplain Tom Haan, who opened the Cowlitz 2 ceremony, said he was particularly moved by LaFave’s comments on the Flight 93 passengers.
“When he talked about the people on Flight 93, and the sacrifice they were willing to make, we don’t always think of those citizens that made that sacrifice,” he said. “We think of the first responders, which is great that we do that every year. But there were a lot of citizens that made sacrifices that day too, and it’s important to remember that.”
Longview Fire Chief Phil Jurmu attended the ceremony and said the event is a yearly reminder of the sacrifice many gave on 9/11.
“This is our small way of ensuring that we’ll never forget,” he said. “It’s putting actions where our words have been. It’s not a small hashtag, #NeverForget, but it’s the reality of the situation to remember those who are still sorrowing over the losses that they suffered that day.”
The Longview Fire Department hosted its own 9/11 memorial at 8:15 a.m. at R.A. Long Park in the civic circle.
Amy Agren, a Castle Rock resident whose husband, Neil Agren, is a firefighter and paramedic with Cowlitz 2 and helped raise the American flag, attended along with her 8-year-old daughter. She said she feels it’s crucial for her daughter, who wasn’t alive during the terrorist attacks, to understand their significance.
“Thankfully, she wasn’t here for (9/11), but we still find it important for her to be out here and to be aware and around, so that she knows what’s gone before her, and she knows what not to hopefully experience in the future,” said Agren, 37.
Brian Ditterick, a Cowlitz 2 firefighter and EMT, emphasized how 9/11 should help people understand how short life can be.
“We don’t know how long we’re going to be here, nobody does,” he said. “The message to take away with what he said was to live your life to the fullest and remember those that passed in today’s tragic event. Also, remember those by...recognizing sacrifice, and making your own sacrifices for others.”