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Arlington turns out for 9/11 remembrance

The Arlington Police Department Color Guard marks the start of ceremonies for Arlington American Legion Post 76’s Sept. 11 memorial at Legion Park. -
The Arlington Police Department Color Guard marks the start of ceremonies for Arlington American Legion Post 76’s Sept. 11 memorial at Legion Park.
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ARLINGTON — After a somewhat sparse attendance last year, the American Legion’s 9/11 memorial attracted a healthy turnout of the town’s citizens as it returned to Legion Park this year.

Arlington American Legion Post 76 Commander Dan Dennis acknowledged the nearly 3,000 American lives lost on Sept. 11, 2001, as well as the more than 300 American lives lost in Afghanistan since then. He then shared how 9/11 had affected his own perspective on life.

“I was shortly out of the service and recently laid off,” Dennis said. “I thought my life was bad. After that day, I saw that my life was a piece of cake compared to the lives of the families of those who didn’t make it. Let us never forget. I know I won’t.”

City of Arlington Fire Department Capt. Phil Knepper delivered a visibly emotional tribute to his fellow firefighters who gave their lives that day. He condemned the terrorists as cowards who had underestimated the resolve of America’s response.

Knepper cited the surge in both patriotism and volunteerism that followed 9/11, from fundraising to blood drives. He added that entire towns had banded together to “adopt” the families of many fallen firefighters.

“As a firefighter, it’s always a dark day when one of our brothers or sisters doesn’t make it home to see their family the next morning,” Knepper said. “On that day, 343 fathers, sons, husbands and brothers failed to come home from their shift. Entire engine and ladder companies were killed. A few stations lost all the members of their firehouses. To put that loss into perspective, more than 5,000 years of firefighting experience was gone, instantly, when the second tower collapsed seven years ago.”

While Knepper urged attendees to teach younger generations about the sacrifices made by those firefighters, Arlington Police Lt. Ed Erlandson addressed the service of police officers and firefighters across the country, as well as by American military members around the world. He reminded attendees of the Skagit County sheriff’s deputy who had recently been killed, observing that danger can be domestic.

Arlington City Council member Scott Solla remembered the surreal experience of finding out about the 9/11 terrorist attack after he’d arrived at a golf course, and seeing the planes crash into the Twin Towers on television. He deemed the day “a wake up call to this country and our leaders,” that transformed the nation.

“What can we do, those of us who benefit from the sacrifices being made by our armed forces and first responders?” asked Solla, after lauding those who dealt with the crisis and took the fight to the terrorists. “We can say thank you. We can reach out and offer our hands and our hearts to our servicemen and women, and to their families. We can provide an environment that lets them know how much we appreciate their commitment and sacrifices, how much we love them and how much we need them to continue the fight against terrorism, and against those who threaten harm and destruction to the people and principles of this great country.”

Spc. Kevin Derrick had only recently joined the 1st Infantry Battalion, but American Legion Post 76 Service Officer Jim Barron drafted him to serve as a guest speaker for this year’s 9/11 memorial. After a longtime career as a law enforcement officer, Derrick enlisted in the Army 11 days earlier, after wrestling for years with how to respond to 9/11.

“I felt that rage and need to give back,” Derrick said. “Shortly after that day, I saw people of all races and creeds pulling together. We need not to forget that, until this battle is won. It’ll take a long time, but until then, while we’re sleeping in warm beds, Osama bin Laden is hiding in holes and shaking in his boots.”

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