Dozens gathered under the Peace Arch to pay tribute to first responders who put their lives on the line 20 years ago during the terror attacks September 11, 2001.
The Northwest 9/11 Memorial Committee, made up of cross-border police and firefighters, canceled the memorial when the U.S. extended its closure of the Canadian border until at least September 21, said Dean Crosswhite, co-chair of the committee and Whatcom County Fire District 7 assistant fire chief. The closed Canadian side of Peace Arch Park also posed a challenge for Canadians to attend the ceremony, he said.
The unofficial 30-minute ceremony was composed of people who showed up of their own accord to pay their respects, Crosswhite said.
U.S. and Canada emergency workers were in attendance, including Blaine police department officers, Point Roberts firefighters and Delta police department
About 100 Fire and Iron Motorcycle Club members, made up of firefighters, rode from Skagit County to the Peace Arch. About 300 motorcycle riders and emergency responders from Canada who planned to attend the event were turned away at the U.S./Canada border, although some attended the event by crossing into Peace Arch State Park.
Washington state senator Doug Ericksen (R-Ferndale) kicked off the speeches during the event. Two jets flew over before U.S. Consul General Brent Hardt spoke.
“While the pain of that attack remains fresh in our memories, what endures and gives us renewed hope is the heroism of the first responders and our fellow citizens and the incredible support we received from our friends and allies across the world,” Hardt said during his speech.
Six responders from the New York police department and New York fire department were honored: Brian McMahon, active NYPD inspector; Efrain Morales Jr, active NYPD detective; Marna Rann, retired NYPD sergeant; Annabelle Nieves, retired NYPD detective; Antonio Ortiz, retired NYPD sergeant; and Konstantinos Skamalos, NYFD paramedic.
The unofficial ceremony concluded with Hardt laying a wreath.
Being unofficial, the event was without an honor guard and a post-event BBQ.
International Peace Arch Association provided materials for visitors to write notes to be placed inside the Peace Arch, as well as photos of the first 9/11 vigil in 2001. In the days following September 11, 2001, people left flowers and notes under the Peace Arch. A candlelight vigil was only supposed to burn for one night, but the candles stayed for three weeks.
“It was all about community and helping people,” Brian McMahon said, recounting his work September 11, during the ceremony. “We took a destructive day and tried to make it positive.”