EPHRATA — They gathered solemnly in front of the Grant County Courthouse on Tuesday to mark the 17th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Northern Virginia.
“Good and decent people died, and some American heroes died trying to save them,” said Mardi Carroll, president of the American Legion Auxiliary Unit 28 in Ephrata.
Carroll addressed a small crowd of Grant County Sheriff’s deputies, local elected officials, veterans, Ephrata police and firefighters, and others in front of the courthouse to mark that day in 2001 when the United States was attacked by al Qaeda terrorists flying hijacked civilian jetliners.
“All these heroes sacrifice for our freedom and our safety,” Carroll said. “Our children must never forget that freedom is bought with the lives and blood of patriots.”
“We are compelled to never forget that while we enjoy our daily pleasures, there are those who have endured and may still be enduring the agonies of pain, deprivation and imprisonment,” said Kim Allen, the vice commander of the Ephrata American Legion Auxiliary, during the portion of ceremony to honor the missing and U.S. prisoners of war.
As well as honoring veterans, the missing and the fallen from the country’s wars, the ceremony also honored first responders — law enforcement, fire fighters, paramedics and EMTs — with several agencies naming their officer, firefighter, and paramedic of the year.
Sheriff Tom Jones named Deputy Michael Shay as the county’s “deputy of the year,” noting that Shay earned the award by breaking up an operation to smuggle drugs into the county jail by listening in on inmate phone calls.
In addition, Jones said, careful listening to inmate conversations also enabled Shay to identify incidents of witness tampering and violations of court orders.
Ephrata Police Chief Mike Warren named the department’s sole detective, Todd Hufman, as the EPD’s officer of the year, while Ephrata Fire Chief Jeremy Burns named Colleen Winski as the EFD’s firefighter of the year.
AMR Ambulance Operations Director Darren Breiher named paramedic David Doubt as the company’s paramedic of the year.
Jane Montaney, the Americanism chairman for the American Legion Post 28, emphasized respect for the flag, but told those gathered that wasn’t simply a matter of standing and putting your hand on your heart when the flag went past or the National Anthem is played.
“Study the issues and vote in every election and keep in communication with those in office,” she said. “Your job as a citizen does not end at the ballot box. Even if the one you voted for didn’t get elected.”
The United States Constitution begins with the words “we the people,” not “we the politicians,” Montaney continued.
“Our leadership can’t do their jobs if we don’t do ours, which is to help them understand how the issues affect you,” she said.
Charles H. Featherstone can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.