Vashon gathers to remember those who fell on 9/11

Islanders marked the day first at a concert, then a candlelit ceremony.

Islanders marked the 21st anniversary of the attacks of September 11, 2001, in two solemn events on Vashon.

In the afternoon, the Vashon Island Chorale, under the direction of Chorale Artistic Director Gary D. Cannon, performed Mozart’s timeless and heart-rending “Requiem” at Vashon Center for the Arts.

The chorale work was introduced in brief, moving remarks by Lia Lira, a noted local chef who lived in New York City in 2001. Lira’s first recollection of Sept. 11, 2001, she said, was her joy in walking through the city and seeing a shockingly beautiful blue sky that morning, and then, shortly after that, noticing a jet flying low overhead.

She recalled other terrible aspects of the events that followed, but said, as time has gone by, the feeling she is left with now “is how quickly a beautiful day can turn dark.”

“I’ve grown to appreciate moments like these, where we’re allowed to deeply feel our sorrow in a beautiful way, in a way that links us to history and each other,” she said. “But as important as that is, what I truly wish for all of us is that we are still able to surrender to all the shockingly beautiful days.”

Later in the day, as dusk fell with smoke from wildfires painting the western sky in strokes of orange and red, a candlelit ceremony was held at Vashon Island Fire & Rescue’s Station 55, in front of VIFR’s 9/11 memorial.

The memorial is constructed of several pieces of columnar basalt from the Columbia River Basin, one of which holds a steel piece from the Twin Towers, a reminder of the destruction of that day.

The vigil began with the mournful sound of bagpipes, played by islander Ella Yarkin, as Fire Chief Matt Vinci and 12 uniformed members of VIFR flanked the memorial.

As Vinci began his prepared remarks, a tone jangled out from the group assembled, as an aid call came into the station. Two first responders quickly peeled away from the ceremony to answer it — a poignant reminder of the duty to serve experienced by so many firefighters on that terrible day in 2001.

In his remarks, Vinci honored the members of the Fire Department of the City of New York (FDNY), the New York Police Department, the New York Fire Patrol, the Port Authority Police and the FBI who lost their lives on 9/11.

He also recited the greater litany of loss: 2,977 lives ended on 9/11 in New York City, the Pentagon, in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, and aboard American Airlines and United Airlines flights.

Vinci also noted that more than 300 FDNY members had died since 9/11 due to occupational exposures — 37 in the last year alone. More than 5,400 people have died since 9/11 due to the exposures at Ground Zero, he said.

“Tonight, and every day we come to work, we will honor the lost and those who continue to fight for their lives….by always training to improve our skills, our physical and mental health, and taking care of each other, making wellness a priority for our VIFR members,” Vinci said. “It’s our calling, it’s our job, and it’s our responsibility as leaders to take care of our members and they will take care of the Vashon community, ensuring that you receive the highest level of service possible when you call the women and men of VIFR 24/7/365.”