Aspen firefighters honor 9/11 fallen | AspenTimes.com

Aspen firefighters honor 9/11 fallen

Joel Stonington

Paul Conrad/The Aspen Times

An Aspen volunteer fireman rang the bell in three sets of five tones at 8:05 a.m. Monday ” exactly five years after the first tower collapsed at the World Trade Center. The tones, in honor of the 343 firefighters who lost their lives during the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, are the traditional notification for a fatality in the line of duty.

Roughly 100 people stood in a semicircle around the fire station as Deputy Chief Rick Balentine spoke.

“The five-year anniversary calls us to reflect again on what was most certainly a defining moment of our nation,” Balentine said. Behind him, one fire engine had an American flag draped across the front, and another had a wreath with the number 343 on it. Beside the wreath was a copy of The New York Times, which printed the faces of all the fallen rescue workers.

While Balentine praised the firemen who went into the buildings, he also brought up the fact that many people remain sick from the dust that resulted from the collapse of the towers.

“Even now, five years later, there are still fire and rescue workers who are dying and sick,” he said. “It is time for our government to stand up for those rescuers and their families.”

After a moment of silence, Pitkin County Sheriff Bob Braudis spoke of how much things have changed and how collective memory of the event is already starting to soften.

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“Four years ago, this block was filled with people,” he said. “Last year, Rick Balentine was here, ringing the bell all by himself.”

Joel Stonington’s e-mail address is jstonington@aspentimes.com