CLEARWATER VALLEY — An enormous American flag held aloft at Kamiah’s Riverfront Park set the stage for a remembrance ceremony of the 20th anniversary of 9/11. The ceremony, instigated by Kamiah Fire Rescue Chief Bill Arsenault, drew a crowd of more than 300 people of all ages. The youngest generation in the crowd, the children and teens hadn’t been born yet in 2001. The ceremony honored all of those who died on Sept. 11, 2001 and since. It focused on the 412 emergency responders who died on 9/11 with a flag placed for each one, plus 13 flags for the recent service members who died in Afghanistan last month. “Today is the day we honor them all, and we will never forget,” Arsenault exclaimed.
Speakers at the event included Pastor Arby Shown, Carl Peterson, Mayor Betty Heater, Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee Chairman Samuel Penny, Emergency responder Jared Silvis and Pastor Stephen Kelly.
Beautiful music filled the park with Jody Dow singing the national anthem, Paula Willis playing “Amazing Grace” on her bagpipes and Jesse Shepherd playing taps on his cornet.
The VFW and American Legion posted the colors and provided a 21 Gun salute. Jared Silvis, from KFR, explained that as emergency responders we are there “to save lives and protect property, sometimes with terrible results.” After Silvis explained the significance of a bell for firefighters, Forrest Robinson struck the final alarm.
Several of the speakers talked about the unity in our country after 9/11 and the division we see now. Arsenault, who has worked as a fire fighter, paramedic and served two tours in Iraq, reminded us that of the people who died that day, 115 countries were represented, different races, classes, gender and religions. He reminded us that we are “one nation under God”, undivided. He said there is no one thing that defines an American. Whether we crossed a border or an ocean, people that want the freedom we have, we are all Americans. He reminded us that as an emergency responder “there is no bias for who we serve, race, religion, gender identity.” We are one nation under God, indivisible, (not divided). He asked the assembled group to pause for a moment of reflection to ask ourselves “what do we need to change?”
Many stayed to shake hands, exchange stories and take photos amidst a sea of flags at the park. Arsenault thanked all the people who helped make the event a reality. “It was my ideas, but you all ran with it,” he concluded.