MARCO ISLAND — The big bell rang out in the otherwise silent firehouse. Five rings, and another five – altogether, 20 strokes, or "four fives," the traditional signal used in the Fire Dept. of New York, long before radios became a vital firefighters' tool, to announce the death of a comrade in the line of duty.
The four fives rang out at 8:46 Tuesday morning in Station 50 of the Marco Island Fire Rescue Dept. to commemorate the firefighters lost attempting to save the lives of others during the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001, as well as all victims of the attacks. The ceremony, including a breakfast whose cost was covered by sponsors through the Marco Fire Rescue Foundation, began at 7:30, and while it was well-attended, the occasion was deliberately more low key than in years past.
"Last year was the 10th anniversary, and after that we've kind of ended it," said Dianna Dohm, president of the Fire Rescue Foundation. "We're moving on."
Her sentiments echoed those around the nation, where 9/11 observances were scaled back, although memory of the day is forever seared into the memory of all who experienced it, whether up close, or via television. Worth remembering also is the sense of unity and shared purpose as the people of the United States came together in determination to fight and prevail against the attackers and those who backed them.
Fire Rescue Foundation secretary Cheryl Ferrara, on a flying visit from her summer home in Maine, sang "America" a capella, and Fire Marshal Ray Munyon provided the invocation. Steve Stefanides shared his memories of being 10 minutes from an appointment at the Pentagon, and Fire Chief Mike Murphy spoke of how such events should refocus us on what really matters.
"Take the time to really realize, what we say may be the last words we ever say to our families, our children," he said. "Days like today draw us back to the most important things in our life."
After a pause to wait for the moment, on another bright morning reminiscent of that Tuesday 11 years ago, MIFD Division Chief Scott Schultz explained about the four fives, while Firefighter Pat O'Gorman rung the bell donated to the department by the Roseboom family of Marco Island on Sept. 11, 2002.
Altogether, about 80 first responders and "civilians" attended the breakfast. Sponsors for the event were Mutual of Omaha Bank, the Hilton resort, Physicians Regional Healthcare System, and Timothy Truesdell Investments. Kretch's catered the breakfast.
The fire trucks and ambulance were pulled out of the station to make room for the breakfast tables, and stood facing out toward the street. All during the ceremony, today's first responders carried their radios, ready at a moment's notice to answer a call for help and put their lives on the line.