Area firefighters pay tribute to NYC colleagues
The U.S. flag and other memorabilia from the tribute will be taken to New York City.
By TELA DURBIN
YOUNGSTOWN -- With bagpipes blaring, the Celtic Flame Pipe and Drum band led about 250 Mahoning County firefighters down Federal Plaza West.
People lined the street and gathered in front of Edward W. Powers Auditorium in the brisk autumn afternoon air Sunday to pay tribute to the fallen New York City firefighters.
In their firefighters' dress uniforms, the men and women marched under an impressive 60-by-40-foot American flag suspended from ladder trucks and headed into the auditorium for a memorial service organized by Mahoning County Fire Chiefs Association.
Karen Kazear, her daughter, Leandra, and her mother-in-law, Pauline McElrath, all of the Youngstown area, attended the service. Kazear said she came in support of her husband, Doug, who is a 20-year Youngstown firefighter veteran, as well as an Air Force reservist.
"It is very important to show support for all the firefighters in all the fire departments everywhere," Kazear said. "We really feel for the families and victims of the Sept. 11 tragedies, and our prayers are with them."
Outfitted in an FDNY baseball hat, retired Youngstown Fire Capt. Jim Prosser said it was important for him to come to an event such as this.
"You get up at eight to work with fellow firefighters and you stay with them 24 hours a day," Prosser, a 25-year firefighting veteran, said. "It's like a big family, and when you can get together like this and show support, it's a great thing."
Bringing closure: Jim Dorman, Boardman fire chief and president of Mahoning County Fire Chiefs Association, said he and his committee organized the memorial in part because of a lack of closure.
"Everyone was hurt by the loss of life they saw on television, and the fact that we couldn't get out there and help, that hurt a lot also," Dorman said.
"We thought if we could have our services here, it would help the guys to get over the loss and get over the fact that we couldn't get out there and help pull people out of the rubble.
"We thought the service was the best way to recognize what happened and help put closure on the tragedy itself."
Youngstown Fire Department Chief John O'Neill said the time was right for a memorial.
"It's been hard for us the last few months, sitting back, hoping we can help in some way. We felt now was an appropriate time to pay our respects to our fallen brothers and sisters in New York," O'Neill said.
Clergymen speak: The Rev. Lewis Macklin of Holy Trinity Missionary Baptist Church, Youngstown, Rabbi Joseph P. Schonberger of Temple El Emeth of Liberty, and the Rev. Michael Swierz of St. Joseph the Provider Church, Campbell, all spoke about the healing process and of trying to make sense of what happened, while also giving thanks to the New York firefighters, as well as firefighters all over the country.
Rabbi Schonberger said, "While it is often said that you [firefighters] are essential for our well-being, we have not said 'thank you' often enough. You remind us of the meaning of compassion and humanity every day."
Images of the firefighters from New York on Sept. 11 flashed across a screen positioned above the auditorium's stage while singer Mary Jo Maluso, accompanied by Rick Blackson on piano, sang at various moments throughout the memorial.
Increasing respect: State Sen. Robert Hagan of Youngstown, D-33rd, spoke about respecting firefighters and other public officials.
"This is a two-part process that we are going through here. One is the healing process; the second part is to pay respect to what the police, fire and EMS people go through every day. I don't doubt for a minute that they wouldn't run up those trade center steps and sacrifice for us, and we also have to make sacrifices for them," Hagan said. "We have to make sure they have decent wages and decent working relations because they put their lives on the line for us every day."
Flag to go to NYC: After a roll call that recognized the 343 New York Fire Department employees who lost their lives, officials folded a flag and presented it to Jerry Holland.
Holland is deputy mayor of labor relations for the city of Akron, vice president emeritus of the International Association of Fire Firefighters 8th District, and a 25-year Cuyahoga County firefighter.
Holland will take the flag, along with other local memorabilia, to New York City and present it at that city's memorial service.
"Any time I get a chance to come back and to say thanks to the firefighters of an area, I do, because I feel so strongly about how wonderful they are," Holland said afterward. "The New York disaster just proved to everybody what these men and women are really made of."
Marilyn Nadal, a firefighter who has been with the Youngstown Fire Department for just under a year, said she was honored to attend the service.
"We want to show respect to the many people who gave their lives," Nadal said. "It gives you a sense of pride to know that you are needed in your community."