CHIPPEWA FALLS — Holding a 9/11 memorial ceremony isn’t just about remembering those who died 17 years ago, it also is about honoring emergency workers for all the challenges they face every day, speakers said Tuesday at HSHS St. Joseph’s Hospital in Chippewa Falls.
“This date, 9/11, carries a heavy burden in memory,” said Robin Schultz, director of emergency services at St. Joseph’s Hospital. “The date doesn’t pass on our calendar without us remembering.”
Schultz thanked first responders — from firefighters to police officers to emergency medical workers — on a local and national level for all they do and face on a daily basis.
“Our view on this is we weren’t defeated (when the attack occurred in 2001),” Schultz said. “We remember the selfless acts of those involved.”
This is the second consecutive year the health organization has hosted a 9/11 remembrance memorial.
“We started last year at Sacred Heart, and we are going to alternate hospitals every year,” Schultz said. “It’s really important these teammates of ours know we appreciate what they do.”
About 60 people attended the ceremony, with a variety of first responders from Chippewa Falls, Eau Claire and the Chippewa Fire District on hand.
Mike Hepfler, Chippewa Falls EMS and fire department chief, reminded the crowd that 3,000 people died on Sept. 11, 2001, but others have died from illnesses caused from that day. Hepfler told a story about Michael McDonald, an off-duty firefighter in New York who ran to assist at the World Trade Center after the first tower was hit. McDonald was there, working to protect the public, when the second tower fell. That firefighter died in August of lung cancer at age 64. McDonald is now the 181st member of the New York Fire Department to die from a 9/11-related illness.
“It’s an obligation for each of us to remember who was killed,” Hepfler said.
Hepfler said spreading messages about that day keeps memories alive of those who died, and it shows that the best of humanity can overcome hate.
“Keep those in emergency response in your thoughts and prayers,” Hepfler said.
Eric Butters, spiritual care provider at both HSHS hospitals, offered a prayer, talking about how the shock of the day is gone but memories remain.
“We long for the innocence and security we have lost,” Butters said.
Butters said it is important to remember the public servants who died that day.
“They showed the greatest act of love by laying down their lives for strangers,” he said.
Sacred Heart of Jesus-St. Patrick Catholic Church in Eau Claire hosted its first Red, White and Blue Prayer Service Tuesday night to honor people who put their lives on the line in times of need — those working in the justice, health care and public safety fields.