Firefighter plans Sept. 11 memorial service - Catholic Courier

Firefighter plans Sept. 11 memorial service

Five years after the fact, remembering where she was on Sept. 11, 2001, still sends a jolt through Jennifer Wildridge.

“I was home and — wow, I just got the chills again,” she remarked. “I kind of felt like the whole world was falling apart. I was never so scared in my life.”

Wildridge is inviting the public to observe the tragedy by attending a service she is organizing. It will take place Monday, Sept. 11, beginning at 7 p.m. on the Village Green in Dryden, Tompkins County. The event will consist of a brief ceremony of readings, rituals, and short speeches from area fire, emergency-medical service and police representatives. All are welcome to attend.

“For many of us it was just such a horrible day, our brains just shied away from it for five years. Maybe it’s time to take a deep breath and just commemorate those people. It’s just a little farther away (in time) and maybe just a little easier,” Wildridge said.

Wildridge said she got her idea for the upcoming memorial service from a documentary, “Paper Clips,” about middle-school youths in Tennessee who are deeply involved in Holocaust awareness. A deleted scene on the “Paper Clips” DVD shows students visiting Ground Zero and being emotionally overcome by the experience.

Wildridge said the Sept. 11 service has gained strong support in her local community. Meanwhile, in Rochester, Bishop Matthew H. Clark will preside at a special Mass at Sacred Heart Cathedral on the morning of Sept. 11. The liturgy will begin at 8:46 a.m., the moment when the first hijacked jet crashed into the World Trade Center.

The unprecedented terrorist attack on the United States killed approximately 3,000 people as a result of two jets that struck the Twin Towers in New York City, another that hit the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and a fourth that crashed to the ground in rural Pennsylvania.

Among the dead were 343 firefighters who had attempted rescue efforts at the Twin Towers. “It kind of put it out there for people, to see what firefighters do every day. It’s dangerous and important and means something,” Wildridge said, observing that the resulting widespread recognition for fire personnel “really does a lot for their morale — but they’d keep doing it without it. They don’t do it for the attention, the accolades. It’s important they give to their community. It’s a vocation, a love, a passion.”

“It kind of put it out there for people, to see what firefighters do every day. It’s dangerous and important and means something,” Wildridge said, observing that the resulting widespread recognition for fire personnel “really does a lot for their morale — but they’d keep doing it without it. They don’t do it for the attention, the accolades. It’s important they give to their community. It’s a vocation, a love, a passion.”Though nobody from the Dryden Fire Department ended up being sent to Ground Zero, Wildridge said members were willingly on standby — including her husband, George, who had just joined the department a few months earlier.”Within the day they were talking — ‘are we going, what would we be doing?’ They were ready to go, even my husband, who didn’t have a lot of experience,” she said. Three years ago Wildridge, 36, joined the volunteer department as well. She and her husband are now both certified as interior firefighters, meaning they can enter burning buildings. Wildridge has mustered the courage to do so on four occasions — yet still struggles to watch video footage of Sept. 11 or movies depicting it. “I kind of wanted to see ‘United 93,’ kind of wanted to see ‘World Trade Center.’ Can’t do it,” remarked Wildridge, whose family attends Holy Cross Parish in Dryden. She and George have two children — Collin, 10, and Christina, 8.Wildridge said that as of late August, planned observances of Sept. 11 in her general region appeared to be few in number. She acknowledged that people still may not wish to revisit the awfulness of that day, but hopes this won’t be the case as time goes on.”I would love to see people take time to just think about it every year — take a moment on that day and go ‘wow, something important happened — something that changed a lot of lives, changed all our lives.’ I just never understood before, with my parents and grandparents, why Pearl Harbor was a day that will live in infamy,” she said. “Now I get it.”

Though nobody from the Dryden Fire Department ended up being sent to Ground Zero, Wildridge said members were willingly on standby — including her husband, George, who had just joined the department a few months earlier.

“Within the day they were talking — ‘are we going, what would we be doing?’ They were ready to go, even my husband, who didn’t have a lot of experience,” she said.

Three years ago Wildridge, 36, joined the volunteer department as well. She and her husband are now both certified as interior firefighters, meaning they can enter burning buildings. Wildridge has mustered the courage to do so on four occasions — yet still struggles to watch video footage of Sept. 11 or movies depicting it.

“I kind of wanted to see ‘United 93,’ kind of wanted to see ‘World Trade Center.’ Can’t do it,” remarked Wildridge, whose family attends Holy Cross Parish in Dryden. She and George have two children — Collin, 10, and Christina, 8.

Wildridge said that as of late August, planned observances of Sept. 11 in her general region appeared to be few in number. She acknowledged that people still may not wish to revisit the awfulness of that day, but hopes this won’t be the case as time goes on.

“I would love to see people take time to just think about it every year — take a moment on that day and go ‘wow, something important happened — something that changed a lot of lives, changed all our lives.’ I just never understood before, with my parents and grandparents, why Pearl Harbor was a day that will live in infamy,” she said. “Now I get it.”

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