Fallon tragedy mirrors larger picture at 9/11 ceremony
LVN Editor Emeritus
Losing a loved one who volunteered many years in a community parallels a microcosm of what occurred 17 years ago when almost 3,000 people died as a result of four hijacked jets crashing into New York City’s North and South towers of the World Trade Center, the Pentagon across the Potomac River from the nation’s capital and into a field in western Pennsylvania.
Included in the number of deaths on Sept. 11, 2001, were 343 firefighters and 72 police officers, all responding to rescue people who were trapped in the buildings severely damaged by the planes.
Carson City’s IHOP Restaurant shooting on Sept. 6, 2011, is also a microcosm of a violent act when a gunman opened fire on three Nevada National Guardsmen and a 67-year-old, killing them in a rage of bullets. Likewise, Fallon experienced its own sorrow when a gunman and fellow church member killed a 35-year veteran of the Fallon Churchill Volunteer Fire Department during a church service on July 22.
To open Fallon’s 9/11 remembrance ceremony, the Mason Valley Pikes & Drums marched first responders to their positions on the sidewalk behind Fallon City Hall before Mayor Ken Tedford dedicated the city’s annual event to the memory of Charles E. “Bert” Miller and his family on Tuesday and noted the community involvement of not only Miller but also his two sons — one a deputy sheriff and the other a fireman in Fallon before moving — and a son-in-law who also serves as a firefighter. He walked over to Ludene, Bert’s widow, leaned over and gave her a hug.
“In all the years we’ve had this, we would have had Bert with us today,” Tedford said, before discussing Miller’s death less than two months ago. “Bert was taken from us in a senseless act as he sat in church.”
Tedford said the way in which Miller died is an anomaly because Fallon doesn’t have murders; yet, by the end of that cloudy July afternoon, Tedford had received messages of condolences and offers of help from leaders from around the state and from the White House. Tedford, who grew up in Fallon and returned after attending the University of Nevada, Reno, knows the resolve of the people who live in the Oasis of Nevada.
“You know the community is going to be fine,” he said.
The longtime mayor — the city’s comforter-in-chief— said the community will help the church, the family and the fire department. Tedford drew a parallel to both the Sept. 11 and July 22 events. Within 48 hours, Fallon conducted two prayer vigils and the Fallon/Churchill and the Federal Fire Department at Naval Air Station Fallon reached out to the Miller family.
“That’s what we do in Fallon. That’s what we do in our country,” he pointed out, adding people who didn’t know Bert Miller or the Miller family organized the vigils. “That’s what we are as Fallonites, that’s what we are as Nevadans, that’s what we are as members of this country.”
When the attacks occurred in New York City, at the Pentagon and over the azure skies of Pennsylvania, Tedford said the country came together without concerns of race or church membership. He said they rallied behind the first responders and the people who died that day.
Both New York City, Carson City and Fallon experienced their darkest days in history as noted by Pastor Brenden Behimer of Parkside Bible Fellowship.
“It is a memory that stirs a multitude of thoughts and emotions and impulses,” he said, adding so much injustice exists in the world.
Individuals and groups performed during the ceremony including the presentation of colors from the Churchill County High School Junior ROTC, the singing of the national anthem by the CCHS choir and “God Bless America” from the second-graders from E.C. Best School, and District Attorney Art Mallory leading the Pledge of Allegiance. The American Legion ceremonial team fired three volleys near the end of the ceremony.
Tedford focused his remarks on never forgetting the events of Sept. 11 and the dedication of the military, firefighters, law enforcement officers and volunteers who protect and serve the nation.
“On that tragic day, we were truly one nation under God,” Tedford described. “We saw the best of humanity, the best in the first responders, the best in heroic America who sacrificed their lives attempting to save others trapped in the most horrifying conditions imaginable.”
Tedford then read the chronology of terror, the hour by hour events of the day. He added America’s freedom is not an idea but a way of life that can’t be taken. In taking the thoughts of President Harry S. Truman, America was not built on fear but on courage, imagination and determination to finish the job.
In view of the first responders who tried to save lives on Sept. 11 to the first responders who answered the call in Fallon on July 22, Tedford said the former president would be proud of our nation today.
Gov. Brian Sandoval, who has delivered the main address at the city’s annual ceremony for many years, said Sept. 11 is a date to remember and reflect, especially for those who witnessed the day’s atrocities.
“For many of us, it still feels fresh,” he said. “We remember what we saw that morning. We remember where we were, when those towers fell and how we felt upon seeing the smoke billowing from the Pentagon. We’ve been hearing about those brave Americans battle against terror in the Pennsylvania sky.
“We also remember our responses to the attacks. We remember standing together arm in arm, hand in hand, as we remember the victims.”
On that day, Sandoval said the country showed America’s strength. Since Sept. 11, the governor said the country and its people have remained vigilant, resilient and grateful for all the sacrifices made that day and each day thereafter.
“Our nation banded together,” he said.
That characteristic showed when residents and first responders from the fire departments, law enforcement agencies such as the Fallon Police Department, Fallon-Paiute Shoshone Tribal Police, Churchill County Sheriff’s Office and Naval Air Station Fallon security and paramedics from Banner Churchill Community Hospital as well as soldiers from the U.S. Army recruiting office in Fallon and sailors from the air station placed roses on a special monument built to honor Sept. 11.
Sandoval also mentioned how President Barack Obama expanded Patriot Day to a day of national service.
“For me, service above self has been the epitome of what one can achieve during his or her lifetime,” he noted. “On Sept. 11, 2001, and each day thereafter, thousands of Americans have put others before themselves.”