Robert Cline, a Bisbee firefighter, well remembers where he was when the first plane hit the Twin Towers. Then 19 years old, Cline was working as a dispatcher for the city of Bisbee and that day defined him.
“I remember calling Police Chief (Jim) Elkins at the time. As the phone was ringing I was like, ‘How do I tell this to him? What do I say?’ ” he remembered. “He answered the phone and I was like, ‘Chief, we’re under attack and I don’t know if it’s over.’ ”
Twenty years later, “As a firefighter I’m still watching over this great city,” he said.
Twenty years later almost to the minute, Cline, Bisbee Mayor Ken Budge, Police Chief Albert Echave, two firefighters, three police officers, four paramedics and a crowd of about 100 gathered to remember and pay their respects to the 2,977 people killed in the Sept. 11 attacks, including 412 people who were emergency workers. It was all part of a ceremony that was sponsored by, and opened, the new Bisbee Saturday Market Saturday at Vista Park.
Budge, a retired firefighter, reflected on the reason for the gathering.
“We are here to pay our respects,” he said.
Budge also discussed what those emergency workers faced as they raced up the stairs to the 80th floor, where the fire was. He knew two of those firefighters, who were from Ladder 20 in Lower Manhattan.
“Those two brothers, their captain and four other crew members all lost their lives in the North Tower that day as they raced to the 35th floor before the building collapsed,” Budge said. “A fully outfitted firefighter with breathing apparatus and tools can climb one floor per minute.”
Among the people attending was Cline’s father, Bob Cline, who was just putting on his work boots when he heard about the attack.
“I was getting ready to go to work and just sitting there drinking coffee, listening to the news and bam! This pops up,” he said. “It kind of shot the whole day, if you know what I mean. Nobody felt like working; everybody showed up and they didn’t know what to do. We didn’t know what to expect.”
The ceremony brought back many memories, some filled with deep emotion, such as Robert Cline related in the ceremony. He is strong in his faith in our nation’s ability to stand strong.
“They can knock us down but we’re going to come right back,” he said. “Back then that was something I thought about and I was able to remember it today and share it.”
Thirty miles away in Sierra Vista, another memorial was just getting underway: The 9/11 Freedom Fest and Tribute at Veterans Memorial Park, organized by the Warrior Healing Center and the Keepers of Liberty.
The Fest was an opportunity for local groups to connect with the community and to reflect on the importance of remembering 9/11, both to insure it never happens again and to pay tribute to those who lost their lives that day.
Timothy Umphrey now lives in Sierra Vista but in 2001 he lived in Middlesex, N.J., within commuting distance of New York City. He was in high school on 9/11, in calculus class when his teacher gave students the bad news.
“This (high school) was full of students whose parents commuted into the city to work,” the U.S. Army veteran said. “There were kids whose parents were in the (Twin Towers) working, and they died that day ... (The school) released us and as I left, I could see the smoke from Ground Zero.”
As he looked around him at the 9/11 Freedom Fest, Umphrey was pleased with what he saw.
“I think it’s great that they’re even having an event like this,” he said. “What happened in the community after that was an amount of solidarity that you just don’t (see today), especially right now you’re not seeing that. You would hope that starting to have events like this to remind everybody ... and not remember just the bad thing that happened but the really, really good thing that happened after that.”
Jim McCormick is a retired soldier and Desert Storm veteran. He was with the First Brigade, known as Tiger Brigade, Second Armor Division, part of the Second Marine Division. He is also a past post commander of the VFW Post 9972 in Sierra Vista and a past district commander. He is the current VFW state of Arizona surgeon, which is a traditional title. He is not a medical surgeon. As he looked around at the hundreds of people milling about and those who were working the event, he was satisfied.
“I think that 20 years is a long time,” he said. “The sadness will never go away but it’s time to look at this as an event that we should remember and if we remember it by coming out here at the park, and everybody coming out on 9/11, it’s generally a good thing ... I think this is a good way for people to come out, reaffirm friendships and remember what happened.”
The Fest was topped off with a concert featuring Trey Taylor, Yvette Serino, Keith Anderson and Larry Gatlin and the Gatlin Brothers, followed by Don McLean of “American Pie” and “Starry Night” fame.