Squinting into Wednesday evening’s setting sun, a crowd of
hundreds gathered at the Empie Park Fire Station for a dedication ceremony that
unveiled a memorial for Wilmington’s fallen firemen, along with the 343
firefighters who perished in the Sept. 11 attacks 12 years ago.
Among the attendees were public officials, local business
owners, the Wilmington Police Department and fire departments from Wilmington
and New Hanover and Pender Counties. Also present were members of two local
motorcycle clubs; the Red Knights and the Rolling Thunder, comprising
firefighters and armed services veterans, respectively.
The ceremony began with the WPD’s Pipes and Drums group’s
bagpipes wailing to the raising of the flag to half mast. Battalion Chief David
Hines served as the master of ceremonies, thanking the many volunteers and fire
department employees who had helped construct the memorial in the seven days
“More than two years ago, the chief asked me to form an
internal committee made up of firefighters and fire personnel,” he said. “Thank
you to all these folks who made this possible.”
Fire Chief Bob Marinette also addressed the crowd, presenting
local business owner Louise McColl with a plaque and thanking her for having “given
up her own health and sacrificed her own business and livelihood to make this
Chief of Operations John Mason closed out the ceremony,
urging those in attendance not to forget the “ultimate sacrifices” made by the
New York Fire Department.
“We can say that this community, this department has not
forgotten,” he said. “And we have respectfully honored those who have given
their lives to serving others.”
The memorial’s centerpiece, unveiled at the end of the
ceremony, was a life-sized bronze statue of a WFD firefighter holding up a scarred
steel I-beam salvaged from the wreckage of the World Trade Center.
Along the perimeter of the giant helmet-shaped memorial were
seven smaller bronze statues of a fireman’s boots, draped with a glove and
holding up a fire helmet. Each statue featured a plaque in honor of the seven servicemen
to die in the line of duty since with WFD’s 1897 inception – Chief Harold L.
Sandlin, Capt. Burleigh A. Scotton, Lt. Emmett A. Williamson, Lt. Raymond D.
Core, Chief Charlies Schnibben and Assistant Chief William P. Monroe.
Two plaques also adorned the south-facing entrance to the
memorial. The first honored the firefighters who were killed or injured in the
years before the paid department’s formation, with the second memorializing
those killed while responding to the 2001 World Trade Center attacks. It
prominently featured a quote from the late Edward E. Croaker, Chief of the Fire
Department of New York from 1899 to 1911.
“When a man becomes a fireman, his greatest act of bravery
has been accomplished. What he does after that is all in the line of work.”