Crittenden to host 9/11 service

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By Camille McClanahan

In 2001, Crittenden Fire Chief Lee Burton worked for Madison County Emergency Medical Services and remembers exactly where he was on 9/11.
“I came off shift that morning and had gone home and was going to try to get some sleep, because I’d been up most of the night,” Burton said. “My radio activated and they put out the mandatory call for all shift commanders to return, so I had to go back in. I had no idea, because I hadn’t had a television on, radio, anything. When I walked in, I thought the Bluegrass Army Depot had blown up, the chemical stock pile had a leak or a major wreck on the highway had occurred. Stuff that we had planned for and I was not prepared for what I was told.”
The Crittenden Fire Department will hold a public “We Remember”—Memorial Service to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on America. The prayer service of “somber remembrance” will be from 1 to 4 p.m. on Sept. 11 at the City Communal Park behind the station.
“We have an obligation of remembering,” said Fire Chief Lee Burton. “The incident was of a magnitude that to not remember, in my opinion, is not an option. So many people lost their lives, so many acts of heroism, so many acts of assistance of going into danger without anybody demanding it—it is a tribute to our country and what we stand for. It is also a milestone that defines what being a public servant stands for. When this came around as the 10th anniversary, it’s just something that we could not let pass.”
As did many Americans on that day 10 years ago, Burton and his co-workers gathered around a television to watch live coverage as the horrific events of that day unfolded.
“It took me awhile to comprehend that it was really happening,” he said. “By the time that the second towers fell, I still had not been able to digest the magnitude of what was going on.”
Burton said that his department was put on alert for the following two weeks, due mainly to their proximity to  the Blue Grass Army Depot, in Richmond, which consists of 15,000 acres of conventional ammunition storage for the Armed Forces and is one of five Army installations in the United States that currently stores chemical weapons.
Burton said that post 9/11, his department had been receiving notices on almost a daily basis from State Emergency Management, the Department Interior and/or the Federal Bureau of Investigations, to alert them to the possibility of terrorist activities, such as hijacking an ambulance or a fire truck to use as a vehicle to blow up hospitals.
He regrets that communities aren’t as unified and patriotic today, as they were immediately following the attacks. Consequently, he points to the 9/11 Memorial Ceremony planned to take place where the Twin Towers fell, now known as Ground Zero, as an example.
“The public forgets and that is why the theme of our service is, ‘We remember,’” Burton said. “Personally, I feel like we have forgotten. In New York City, public service officials aren’t invited.” The fire departments, police departments or EMS, those people who were there, even those people who were injured—they are not invited to the ceremony—with the statement that there will be a ceremony at a later date to be announced. That infuriated me, and that just goes to show that when you allow politicians to control an event, the meaning will be lost.”
Although, Burton wasn’t acquainted with any of the first responders in New York City, where nearly 3,000 perished at the site of the Twin Towers, or those who responded to the attack at the Pentagon or went to the site of the the hijacked plane that crashed in rural Pennsylvania, he feels connected to them. He is disturbed about those who have suffered from illness and diseases related to working in the environmental aftermath.
“I see the photos, I read about the problems that some of them have and I feel for them,” he said. “It breaks my heart. Health problems that are being denied by workers’ compensation and by the Department of Interior, because they have no proof, even though the numbers alone substantiate them, and because it’s the fire and police service—they’re approving the benefits for the civilians and denying the benefits for the public servants.”
Burton hopes his department’s 9/11 “We Remember” Memorial Service will bring the community together to refocus on a commitment of service—neighbor to neighbor.
“I want them to know that this department remembers 9/11, because of what it means—it means we’re here to do for our neighbors, our community, whatever they need us to do in the same vein of belief as 9/11—we will give, not because there is a gain for us, but because our fellow citizens need us.”
Former fire chief and Marine Corps veteran, Dave Owens, who retired earlier this year, will also be honored at the service.