Service, sacrifice and remembrance: 97 AMW honors 9/11

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Cody Dowell
  • Altus Air Force Base Public Affairs

The 97th Civil Engineer Squadron fire department held a 9/11 remembrance ceremony, Sept. 11, 2020, at Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma.

The purpose of the ceremony was to honor the firefighters, law enforcement officers, and medical responders who lost their lives on this day 19 years ago during the attacks on 9/11.

This ceremony began with the posting of the colors and the playing of the national anthem followed by the reciting of the Police Officer’s, Paramedic’s, and Firefighter’s Prayers by 97th AMW Airmen. The guest speaker of the ceremony, U.S. Air Force Col. David Vanderburg, the 97th Mission Support Group commander, then provided some remarks.

“It is good that we set aside this time to reflect, lest we forget the significance of this horrific event that occurred 19 years ago today,” he said. “Extreme acts of valor, heroism & courage were demonstrated that day showing the best of humanity in the midst of such tragedy. For almost all my military career we have been at war in the Middle East, bravely combating terrorism to prevent reoccurrence on our soil. I lost a personal, dear friend to an IED while we were deployed, Maj Rod Rodriguez, and have tattooed on my arm ‘all gave some and some gave all,’ as a forever reminder that freedom isn’t free.”

To conclude the ceremony, the “Striking of the Four Fives Bell” was performed. According to the ceremony’s coordinator Tech. Sgt. Francisco Bolanos, the ringing of the bell was used to transmit information before radios or pagers. When a firefighter in the line of duty or an important official passes away, the bell is struck five times, repeated in four series, with a slight pause between each series. This is performed at the ceremony as a reminder of the members lost that day.

“The events that took place truly affect the older members of the fire department because they were either early in their careers or still in high school and had a vivid memory on how it was a huge hit to fire services everywhere,” said Bolanos. This ceremony is a way to show the heritage, the heart it takes, and the shoes to fill to be part of the fire department.”

According to the Philip Fourroux the 97th CES installation fire chief, the ceremony at Altus AFB originally started as a small mention during the fire department’s roll call. However, the words spoken during the ceremonies “let us never forget,” made him want to increase the day’s significance. Since 2012, when Fourroux was an active duty senior master sergeant, he has grown the fire department’s ceremony into the wing event that it is today.

“Even though we are restricted from what we can do currently, it’s still important to hold the ceremony, no matter how simple. It could even be a moment of silence,” said Fourroux. “This is about remembering those who have lost their lives and how it has impacted us today.”