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Vienna honors first responders

Staff photo / Allie Vugrincic Vienna fire Chief Richard Brannon, Capt. Eric Ginn, and firefighter Mark Haddle raise a flag of honor made from the names of those who died in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks during a 20th anniversary memorial service Saturday morning at the Vienna Fire Department.

VIENNA — Fire Chief Richard Brannon said Sept. 11 is an emotional day for him.

“I’m a small rural fire chief. We have 3,900, 4,000 people in our township. I can’t even imagine losing one of my firefighters, let alone the fire commissioner of New York losing 343,” Brannon said.

During a Saturday morning memorial service, the Vienna Fire Department honored those who were lost in the 9/11 attacks, especially the first responders who did all they could to save lives.

At the same moment the north tower of the World Trade Center collapsed 20 years ago, Vienna firefighters stood as Trumbull County dispatchers read, “On Sept. 11, 2001, at 10:28 a.m., the north tower of the World Trade Center followed its twin in collapse, resulting in the cumulative loss of 343 New York City firefighters, 37 Port Authority police officers, 23 NYPD police officers and eight private EMS responders. These true heroes gave their lives in support of their fellow man and must never be forgotten.”

The ceremony also included the hoisting of a flag of honor, striped with the names of all those who lost their lives in the 9/11 attack. Pastor Scott Ardary gave an invocation, reminding those present of the way people came together on that fateful day and great things can happen if we come together now. Local Scouts laid a wreath at the memorial, and firefighters rang a bell outside the station — something traditionally done at a firefigther’s funeral.

Among the crowd of about 70 people outside the Vienna fire station was Pauline Stienberg, a former resident of New York, who 20 years ago escaped from the 36th floor of the south tower of the World Trade Center. Stienberg didn’t want to speak at the event but was seen tearing up as residents offered support following the service.

The 9/11 Memorial outside the Vienna Fire Department has been there since 2011, when, after a two-year-process, the department received two beams from the World Trade Center, Brannon said. The fire department called on the community for support in creating the memorial and raised almost $7,000 at the time, he said.

“It was a community effort. This actually belongs to the community. We take care of it. We’re proud to have it here,” Brannon said.

The only other local memorials that have beams from the World Trade Center are in Bazetta and Austintown, Brannon said.

He said several years ago, when the Austintown 9/11 Memorial was vandalized, the Vienna Fire Department raised $750 to help restore it. In return, Austintown officials shared some dirt from Shanksville, Pa., where Flight 93 crashed as its passengers prevented it from getting to D.C. The dirt at the Vienna memorial is stored in an eagle-shaped urn.

The Vienna Fire Department also has a 9/11 display inside.

“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime shot to do something to memorialize what actually happened,” Brannon said of the department’s memorial.

When Brannon speaks of the “eerie” experience of collecting the beams from New York City, he likes to say, “It took Vienna 10 years to reach ground zero — far too late to change history, but just in time to honor it.”

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