The Bluff City Tuesday, Sept.11, joins communities across the United States in honoring local firefighters and remembering the nearly 3,000 people who lost their lives in the terrorist attacks that shook the nation 11 years ago on this day.
“Everyone lost something that day, it’s an American tragedy,” said Scott Ellis, family service director of Forest Hill Funeral Home & Memorial Park East. A granite memorial will be dedicated Tuesday there.
(Photos: Lance Murphey)
The Memphis Fire Department long has held an annual service to remember those firefighters who sacrificed their lives in service to the community, but after the events of Sept. 11, 2001, the annual memorial service was moved to that date.
“We’ve always had a memorial for those fallen firefighters, who throughout the history of the department gave their lives in service to the city of Memphis,” said Lt. Wayne Cooke, public information officer for the Memphis Fire Department. “After 9/11, we wanted to make sure we honored those who gave their lives in the line of duty on that day.”
The ceremony will start at 8:15 a.m. with a service in honor of fallen Memphis firefighters at St. Peter Catholic Church, 190 Adams Ave., which will be followed by an 8:45 a.m. processional to the Fire Museum of Memphis, 118 Adams Ave.
The museum is dedicated to promoting fire safety education and preserving the history of the local fire service’s contribution to the community. It also houses a memorial wall with 53 bricks representing each of the firefighters in the history of the Memphis Fire Department who’ve sacrificed their lives in the line of duty.
The Firefighters Memorial Service will take place at the memorial wall at 9 a.m.
Among the groups joining the Memphis Fire Department for this ceremony will be the Memphis Police Department, Shelby County Fire Department and the Wolf River Pipe and Drums.
“We would like the public to know that we solicit their participation in this program, to come out and be a part of this memorial,” Cooke said. “Our firefighters gave their lives in service to the community and to the citizens across this nation, and that’s a sacrifice that’s priceless. We remember them for their dedication, and we honor their surviving family members. … We continue to uplift them in prayer, that God will comfort them, especially during this time. Those thoughts and those memories often surface on 9/11.”
A granite memorial commemorating 9/11 will be placed near the flagpoles at Forest Hill Funeral Home & Memorial Park East.
Another public memorial service, “Never forget,” takes place at 10:30 Tuesday morning at Forest Hill Funeral Home and Cemetery, 2440 Whitten Road.
“I think that we’ve put together a very dignified and solemn ceremony that will continue to help us explore what 9/11 means to Americans,” said Todd Van Beck, associate at Forest Hill. “This is not an event where it will be this particular group or that particular group. This is for all Americans. We share in our grief and pain together on this anniversary.”
Participants include representatives from the Shelby County Sheriff’s Department and the city and county fire departments, clergy of various faiths, and Shelby County Sheriff Bill Oldham who will deliver the keynote address.
Forest Hill will formally unveil a specially commissioned memorial engraved with a rendering of the Twin Towers and New York City skyline, etched with the words “We will never forget.”
Co-designed by Forest Hill staff in conjunction with Everlasting Granite in Elberton, Ga., the roughly 4-foot-tall, solid black granite memorial was created by a master stone-cutting craftsman.
“The basic nature of the funeral profession is to commemorate events where people have lost love ones,” Van Beck said. “We thought that this would be a very understandable and comprehensible connection for the community.”
The 9/11 memorial will be commemorated at the entrance to the cemetery, where it will remain permanently.
Van Beck said Forest Hill plans to hold a public service at the memorial each year on the anniversary of 9/11.
“I think it’s the fitting and proper thing to do too; once a year, take an hour or so out of your busy schedule to reflect so that we never let this fade from our memory,” Van Beck said.