Anniversary stirs sombre memories

Anniversaries of tragic events like 9-11 evoke sad, often painful memories, but for some, it’s just an added reminder of the dangers they face daily.

Members of Penticton Fire Rescue march along Nanaimo Avenue on the anniversary of 9-11.

Members of Penticton Fire Rescue march along Nanaimo Avenue on the anniversary of 9-11.

Anniversaries of tragic events like 9-11 evoke sad, often painful memories, but for some, it’s just an added reminder of the dangers they face daily.

Unfortunately it took the events of that September morning in 2001 to drive home the commitment of the men and women who collectively share the duties of first responders.

It was those people who were honoured locally last weekend at the unveiling of a special cairn at Veterans Memorial Park.

Two plaques adorn the stone work, one recognizing the RCMP and the other Canadian firefighters.

The program began with a service at the Number 1 fire hall about the day the World Trade Centre towers were struck by hijacked aircraft.

The ensuing collapse of the buildings killed not only thousands trapped inside, but hundreds of firefighters and others who were trying to help.

While most people have the ability to recall exactly where they were and what they were doing on fateful occasions, 9-11 was not one of those times for veteran Penticton firefighter Howard Grantham.

“To this day I couldn’t honestly tell you what I was doing, I was focused on the first responders who were in those buildings,” he said. “It didn’t matter what I was doing, it mattered what they were doing.

“Even today it’s hard to talk about because basically it’s the kind of thing that can happen to anybody in emergency first response.”

The firefighter added in times where split-second decisions have to be made with life or death consequences, emergency personnel fall back on their training.

As is often the case, they put the well being of those they are assisting ahead of their own.

For Grantham it’s easy to imagine what was going through the minds of those as they did what they were taught to do.

“It just happened to be the worst-case scenario and a whole bunch of people didn’t come home,” he said. “You hope for the best and sometimes that’s just not good enough.

“Those people will never be forgotten. They will always be in our memories and those who sacrifice in the future will be remembered as well.”