Santa Barbara County Fire Department honors heroic first responders with flag-lowering ceremony
The Santa Barbara County Fire Department lowered the flag Friday to honor first responders who gave their lives to rescue others on 9/11.
Their sacrifices saved people during the terrorist attacks that shook America on Sept. 11, 2001.
Around 9 a.m. Friday, county fire chief Mark Hartwig took to a podium in front of the fire department’s Firefighters Memorial statue to deliver remarks to the media.
Santa Barbara County District Attorney Joyce Dudley also attended the short ceremony at the statue, which is at 4410 Cathedral Oaks Road.
Chief Hartwig paid tribute to the 343 firefighters, 37 Port Authority police officers and 23 New York Police Department officers, who died while trying to rescue people from the burning World Trade Center, as well as 27 former firefighters who died from illnesses related to their service that day.
The Fire Department of the City of New York recently added those 27 names to its World Trade Center Memorial Wall, making a total of 227 firefighters who have died from 9/11 health problems related to Ground Zero rescues.
Citing the sacrifice that was made on that day by the FDNY’s then highest ranking firefighter, chief Peter J. Ganci Jr., Chief Hartwig called 9/11 an event “that was no respecter of rank or persons.”
“On that day, that morning, Peter J. Ganci Jr. was chief of the 15,000-member Fire Department of New York. He died that day, putting his life between danger and those who needed his help,” Chief Hartwig said.
After the ceremony, Chief Hartwig told the News-Press that 9/11 is worth remembering as an event that not only galvanized first responders’ commitments to protect and serve communities, but also one that “demonstrated the very best of humankind.” This, he said, is particularly evident in stories of co-workers at the World Trade Center helping each other escape the burning building.
“We use it as a profession to really demonstrate courage, which is one of our core values. But I think as a society we love to remember, and we think of us helping each other,” he said.
Following Chief Hartwig’s remarks, Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown took to the podium. Though the sheriff described Sept. 11, 2001 as “the darkest day in American history” for first responders, he echoed Chief Hartwig’s sentiments that it “also brought out the best in us as Americans.”
“Countless people were inspired to join the military or law enforcement so they could protect other Americans. Children whose parents were taken from them have now grown up into adults themselves, and many of them have dedicated their lives to the service of others,” he said.
Sheriff Brown concluded his speech encouraging all to never forget the heroism of those who risked their lives to save others on 9/11, and the flag ceremony followed shortly thereafter.
As the present law enforcement officers saluted the American flag raised over the Firefighters Memorial, the flag was lowered all the way down the pole, raised all the way back up and finally lowered to half-mast.