Although the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way of life as we know it, local first responders have found innovative ways to continue to carry on the observance of those who died as a result of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, which dramatically impacted America 19 years ago.
“Today, once again (we’re) faced with challenges,” said Harrison County Fire Marshal Duana “DJ” Couch.
City and county officials willingly accept the challenge, she said.
“For 19 years we made a promise to never forget the tragedy that happened to our fallen heroes and others who lost their lives on September 11, 2001, and this year is no exception,” said Couch.
“We may not be able to do it together in person as a whole due to the COVID-19 pandemic; but — never fear — the city of Marshall and Harrison County will not fall,” she said. “We will stand strong, finding a way on this National Day of Service and Remembrance to those Americans across the nation, the first responders and individuals who sacrifice their lives on a daily basis to save others.”
Due to the need for social distancing, the Harrison County Fire Marshal’s Office has coordinated with the telecommunication divisions of the Harrison County Sheriff’s Office and Marshall Police Department to participate in activating tones for the national observance, on Friday.
This will take the place of the traditional centralized prayer service that is held annually in downtown Marshall, and organized by the Harrison County Firefighters Association. All fire, law enforcement and first responder departments have been invited to participate in the tribute of victims at their own respective locations.
“There will be a countywide coordinated remembrance with each of the county fire, law enforcement, and other first responder departments, paying tribute at their departments, to those who tragically lost their lives on September 11, 2001, at the specified coordinated time of 8:46 a.m. to mark the time the first plane was crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center and again at 9:03 a.m. to mark the time the second plane was crashed into the South Tower of the World Trade Center,” said Christina Anderson, member of the association’s 9/11 commemoration planning committee.
Of the 2,977 victims killed in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania during the attacks, 343 were firefighters, 60 were police officers and eight were emergency medical technicians.
As a tribute to the victims, the departments will ring their bells, sound their sirens and flash their emergency lights on their vehicles at the specified times. Captain Tony Davis, vice-chair of the Harrison County Firefighters Association and longtime volunteer firefighter for Harrison County ESD No. 2 (Nesbitt Volunteer Fire Department), said all nine ESDs are all on board with the alternate plans, in order to help mitigate the spread of the virus.
“With everything going on, we want to keep the numbers down and keep everybody safe; so each department wanted to be a part of something, but be able to still do their service,” said Davis.
All Emergency Service Districts will be manned for the observance.
“We came up with a timeline. ‘DJ’ is going to page it out, just like they would a normal fire call, so it’d come across everybody’s radio,” said Davis.
According to a flyer, tones will be activated for one minute, beginning at 8:46 a.m. to mark the time when the first plane was crashed into the North Tower at the World Trade Center; and then again for one minute at 9:03 a.m. to mark the time when the second plane was crashed into the South Tower.
“They’ll stand at attention, turn their lights on and sirens on for one minute,” Davis explained, noting that will start at 8:46 a.m. “There will be a one minute silence after that.”
The same will be repeated for the page for 9:03 a.m.
Additionally, “different departments will have different speakers just as they would downtown,” said Davis. “They may have a preacher come up and do a benediction. Each chief will speak on their department and what’s going on.
“With everything going on, we figured that was the best way everybody could be on the same page,” he said.
Anderson said the association invites community members to join them in a moment of silence during the aforementioned times.
“During this time when we have to be sheltered in place for the pandemic, we think this is a good opportunity for us to be together as a community, even at a distance, for an important and solemn remembrance, regarding the tragic attacks and immeasurable sacrifice of those who lost their lives on September 11, 2001,” said Anderson. “Next year, pandemic-willing, we will go back to our original yearly format of meeting for a gathering all together for a Prayer Service on the Square.”
Anderson said they appreciate all front line heroes, like first responders, healthcare workers and others who continue their brave service and sacrifice in keeping all safe through this pandemic.