“Holy Ground” brought to the City of Federal Way


by Judy Schwanke

“Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.” -John F. Kennedy (inscribed on the wall of the 9/11 memorial)

Thirteen years following the tragedy that shocked the nation on 9/11, members of the greater Federal Way community came together to honor, remember and dedicate a lasting memorial for all who lost their lives that day in a dedication ceremony last Thursday, September 11, 2014.

Pipers & Drummers from Eastside, Puget Sound & Seattle Firefighters

Pipers & Drummers from Eastside, Puget Sound & Seattle Firefighters

The South King Fire and Rescue (SKFR), who sponsored the event, are made up of 7 fire stations throughout Des Moines, Federal Way and Auburn. The memorial, now in its permanent location at Fire Station 64, 3700 S. 320th St. in Federal Way, consists of pieces from each of the crash sites.

Three years ago, two SKFR firefighters, Lt. Scott Mahlen and firefighter Sven Schievink, traveled to New York to retrieve a steel beam from the World Trade Center. The memorial also consists of a 150-pound piece of limestone from the face of the Pentagon that was delivered to the Alaska Airlines cargo facility last May, and a stone from the crash site of American Airlines Flight #93 in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. With help from the National Park Service, Mahlen and Schievink picked up the stone during their trip to receive the steel beam in 2011. It was on AA93 that Federal Way passenger Todd Beamer spearheaded the revolt against the hijackers with plans to fly the plane into the ground, thwarting the hijacker’s plan to head to Washington DC. The well-known phrase “Let’s roll” were Beamer’s last words.

The 1 ½ hour-long ceremony was presented by local dignitaries and fire officials and was emceed by Chief Al Church. It included special musical contributions by the Pipes & Drums made up of Eastside Firefighters, Puget Sound Firefighters, and Seattle Firefighters Pipes & Drums. After raising the flag to half-staff by the SKFR Honor Guard, SKFR Chaplain Hunich gave a memorial blessing followed by a welcoming from the Board of Fire Commissioners, Chairman Bill Gates. Lt. Chris Burdyshaw was recognized for the design and building of the Memorial. Other speakers included Capt. Ryan Herrera, President of South King County Professional Firefighters IAFF Local 2024, and Keynote speaker James Joyce, Retired Lieutenant, City of New York Fire Department.

Lt. Joyce spoke of his personal account of that tragic day and the months to follow, from locating his firefighter brothers who were on duty that day to hearing the PASS alarms worn by the firefighters going off in the aftermath, then on to sharing about participating in the many memorial services which began one week later on September 18. He participated in from 4-6 services almost every day for months. By January of 2002, his team participated in over 175 services. Recovery at Ground Zero took place around the clock until August 30, 2002.

“The terrorists woke a sleeping giant that day and mistakenly underestimated the strength, the willpower, the determination, the character and the resolve of the people of America,” said Joyce. “As a result, they unified and rallied the country. Our world changed drastically that day,” he continued. Joyce also shared his thoughts regarding the memorial that now stands in Federal Way. “On behalf of the FDNY, I want to thank the South King Fire Department for this memorial. It’s truly, truly a great memorial,” Joyce shared. “I’ve seen a lot and this is among the best,” he added.

Building the memorial was a community-wide effort as it was constructed mostly by firefighters, along with generous donations from fire departments, service groups and individual residents. Area businesses also provided donations of material and labor to make this project possible. It seemed only fitting that a special part of the ceremony included presenting plaques to each of the 26 major sponsors of the event. Aysha Piko-James, who works for D&A Electric that donated the electrical work for the memorial, was in attendance last Thursday. She, like many other folks, came to reflect and remember.

“What I remember of [9/11] is how the country came together as one. That was a big, big thing to remember–how everyone came together…you felt like the whole nation came together as one–and it’s really sad how it’s gone back and it took such a big thing like this to bring everyone together,” said Aysha. “Now thirteen years later it seems like it’s back to where everyone is just after their own selves and things like that. I hope that every time 9/11 comes around, people–maybe even if it’s just for a few minutes that day–get that sense of everyone coming together again,” she added.

The ribbon-cutting ceremony was conducted by Chairman Gates, Chief Church and Lt. Chris Burdyshaw. The public can now view the memorial which also consists of benches, two fountains, and a Callery pear tree (or Survivor Tree) which is the only species of tree that survived at Ground Zero on September 11, 2001.

Like one observer who posted to the SKFR’s Facebook page in response to the memorial, Betty Walker said, “I saw and touched the beam… everyone who stood around it was quiet or whispered. Holy ground brought to our city.” Other people posted, “Fantastic”, “Better than we could have imagined–great work!” and “I drive past every day to get to work; it’s looking good!”

Even though it has been thirteen years, the phrase “We will never forget” continues to ring proud and strong. We cling to the healing that those words portray. We stand firm with the belief that during those terrifying and horrific days and months and years that have followed, we are stronger as a nation. And now, cities of Federal Way, Des Moines and Auburn, with this permanent memorial, we will never forget.

Never Forget

Never Forget

 

Master of Ceremonies, Chief Al Church

Master of Ceremonies, Chief Al Church

 

Flag raised to half-staff

Flag raised to half-staff

Memorial Blessing given by SKFR's Chaplain Corby Hunich

Memorial Blessing given by SKFR’s Chaplain Corby Hunich

Welcome by Chairman Bill Gates

Welcome by Chairman Bill Gates

Nearly 300 turned out for the dedication.

Nearly 300 turned out for the dedication.

Capt. Ryan Herrera, President of South King County Professional Firefighters IAFF Local 2024

Capt. Ryan Herrera, President of South King County Professional Firefighters IAFF Local 2024

Lt. Chris Burdyshaw was recognized for the design and building of the memorial.

Lt. Chris Burdyshaw was recognized for the design and building of the memorial.

Aysha Piko-James from D&N Electric receive a plaque for being one of the sponsors of the memorial.

Aysha Piko-James from D&A Electric receives a plaque for being one of the sponsors of the memorial.

Ret. Lt. James Joyce from City of New York Fire Department

Ret. Lt. James Joyce from City of New York Fire Department

small flag and program

Ribbon Cutting Ceremony

Ribbon Cutting Ceremony

Ribbon Cutting Ceremony

Ribbon Cutting Ceremony

Steel Beam from World Trade Center

Steel Beam from World Trade Center

Limestone inscription

Limestone from the Pentagon

Limestone from the Pentagon

Rock description

Rock from crash site of Flight United Airlines #93

Rock from crash site of Flight United Airlines #93

Todd Beamer's name on wall of those lost their lives on United Airlines Flight #93

Todd Beamer’s name on wall of those lost their lives on United Airlines Flight #93

Pipers

Pipers

Helmet

Tribute to the memorial’s designer, Lt. Chris Burdyshaw

Tree description

An interesting botanical note

Callery Pear Tree is the only tree species that survived Ground Zero on 9-11.

Callery Pear Tree is the only tree species that survived Ground Zero on 9-11.

Members of South King Fire & Rescue

Members of South King Fire & Rescue

Water fountains/towers

Basalt pillars form an evocative pair of twin fountains


Comments

2 Responses to ““Holy Ground” brought to the City of Federal Way”
  1. Bob Sheckler says:

    Well done Chief Al Church; very, very well done!

    Rate: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  2. Nathan Jones says:

    Why is the monument hidden behind trees? Doesn’t the public deserve to see this when we drive by?

    Rate: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

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