More than 100 law enforcement officers, firefighters and members of the public turned out to honor the lives lost on Sept. 11, 2001.
A 45-minute ceremony was held at Sedona Fire District’s Station 6, which is home to a 9/11 memorial featuring a 5-foot-long girder from one of the Twin Towers. Last year was the official unveiling of the memorial that saw nearly 500 people in attendance.
Following the raising of the flag by the honor guard, SFD Chief Kris Kazian opened the ceremony by reflecting on his own emotions while watching the events of Sept. 11 play out on television.
“Sept. 11, 2001, many of us can remember it as though it was yesterday,” he said. “As a first responder, I remember watching the images on TV. I immediately placed myself on scene and what it would be like climbing up those stairs. They certainly didn’t expect the towers to fall that day. As they did I had a certain eerie feeling that I still remember to this day.”
In the end, 2,977 people lost their lives in New York City, at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and in Shanksville, Pa. Of those, 343 were firefighters and 71 police officers. Since then, Kazian said many first responders that day have since died from 9/11 exposure-related illnesses such as cancer.
“As I stand here before you, to my left is this beautiful piece of the 20th floor of one of the World Trade Center towers,” he said. “A 3,000-pound piece of steel that helps us to remember to never forget. A piece of New York that stands right here in Sedona.”
Sedona Police Chief David McGill spoke next and like Kazian, recalled his thoughts from that day.
“That morning 343 firefighters and 71 police officers woke up and went to work much like the days before,” he said. “Committed and dedicated to serving all people in their community no matter the color of their skin, their god of their religion or the political affiliation of their party. None of them knew they would give their lives in the service of others that fateful day.”
McGill said first-responders go to work each day knowing the potential risk but do so willingly in the name of helping and protecting others. He said every Sept. 11 he thinks of police officers and firefighters and the thousands of innocent people who died “for simply being Americans.” But despite the tragedy there was a bit of a silver lining.
“I remember and reflect on how all of us responded to these attacks as united people,” he said. “Americans of this generation came together like we had never done before. For days, months and years after this attack, all of us put aside our petty grievances, our egos, our bravado and became one people united in a greater cause than ourselves.”
The memorial was the brainchild of Sedona City Councilman Scott Jablow, who at the time was a member of SFD’s Governing Board.
After being turned down to receive a piece of the Twin Towers, he was notified two years ago that SFD would be receiving one. From there, he and his fellow fundraising committee members raised the money needed to build the memorial.
For Jablow, this was personal as he is a retired police officer for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
“We trust that bringing this memorial to Sedona for moments of peaceful reflection helps us all to honor the sacrifices made that day,” he said.
The final guest to speak was Jenn Winters-Ashcraft, who now lives in Prescott but was raised in New York City. Not only was she in the Twin Towers when they were attacked by terrorists in 1993, she witnessed in person as the towers came down eight years later.
“On Sept. 11, I witnessed darkness and pain — a lot of it,” she said, choking back tears. “But I also witnessed light and the true American spirit. That was something I had never seen before at my age. But I saw something amazing. I saw us raise above a challenge after a catastrophic tragedy of great proportion on American soil. I will never forget the things I saw — both the bad and the good.”
Winters-Ashcraft said she suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder for several years after witnessing the events of 9/11. After moving to Prescott she began volunteering for the American
Red Cross. There, she met her now husband, Tom, whose son was one of the 19 Granite Mountain Hotshot crew members killed in the Yarnell Hill Fire.
Today, the couple offers seminars for those dealing with grief.
“Those horrific images of that day are forever imprinted in our minds,” she said. “We will never forget and will always remember.”