BRISTOL - Bristol police and firefighters gathered with residents and city leaders Tuesday morning in commemoration of the 17th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
At 9 a.m., local police and fire officers marched out and saluted as a wreath was laid before the stone monument dedicated to firefighters who died in the line of duty, and the Dunbar Bell, which is dedicated to Bristol firefighters.
Standing with them were Sean Lennon, president of the Bristol Fire Union, and Mayor Ellen Zoppo-Sassu.
Fire Chief Jay Kolakoski thanked all who attended the ceremony.
“We have come here to fulfill the promise to never forget and to honor the lives lost,” said Kolakoski. “Three hundred forty-three firefighters lost their lives in rescue operations and more continue to die to this day of illnesses related to their rescue efforts. We ask that once we older people are gone that the younger generations continue coming out here to remember those who gave their lives to continue to provide the freedom we so enjoy.”
Another bell was brought out atop a black bench. A firefighter rang it 20 times - four rounds of five - to honor the emergency responders who died in the aftermath of the attacks.
Zoppo-Sassu said that there likely wasn’t anyone present who could forget where they were on Sept. 11, 2001.
“It was a beautiful fall day and it was the day of a primary election - but there was barely anyone voting because we were all glued to our televisions watching as the tragedy unfolded in New York,” she said. “It is important that we continue to engage in this ritual to acknowledge our past while hoping for a better future. It’s a shame that first responders still have to go to the Capitol to talk about PTSD because it is not acknowledged.”
Lennon challenged all those who attended the ceremony to speak to a younger person about what happened 17 years ago.
“In this time of political divide, let’s not forget that we’re all Americans,” he added.
Jamie Perchiano came to the remembrance ceremony with his wife Courtney. He wore a shirt and carried a plaque dedicated to the memory of Robert Cordice, a police officer who died during rescue operations on 9/11. Perchiano added that between 10 and 20 people that he went to school with were working in the World Trade Center that day and perished during the attacks.
“I was on the Staten Island ferry going to meet with them for breakfast,” said Perchiano. “Then I heard people screaming when the first plane hit. Staten Island was locked down.”
Councilor Dave Preleski, who was among those gathered, said it is important for the community to do events like this.
“We must always remember and never forget,” he said. “This is something that affected so many people.”
Kevin McCauley, a 30 year member of the local fire department, said that he remembers that local firemen were on standby in case they needed to be called in to assist with rescue operations.
“It didn’t happen, but we were prepared,” said McCauley.
Dan Slevinsky, a retired former police chief from Terryville, said that he came to the ceremony to pay his respects.
Brian M. Johnson can be reached at 860-973-1806 or firstname.lastname@example.org.