Prairieville Fire Department holds memorial to remember September 11, 2001

Darian Graivshark
Recruit Class 1 Honor Guard for the Posting of Colors.

Last week, on September 6, another 18 names were added to the list of the fallen from 9/11. These individuals suffered from illnesses or injuries that affected them after the September 11 attacks.

Mark Stewart, Prairieville Fire Department Fire Chief, shared his experience with 9/11 at their Memorial Program. Chief Stewart worked at ground zero for his federal response team.

"Initially, I was supposed to go to the Pentagon, but the military's Mortuary Affairs determined they would be able to handle that. About a week later, I was sent to New York and agreed to help work night shifts at ground zero," Chief Stewart said.

Chief Stewart holds this day close to his heart because of everything he saw while helping with recovery and rescue. The amount of damage and devastation is something he won't ever forget.

"It was also a very solemn time. There were people lined up on the streets with signs to show their support of those who were helping," Chief Stewart said.

During their efforts, if at any time a piece of a responder was found, everything else would cease, and a procession would take place for the fallen EMT, police officers, firefighters, and so forth. People began to understand that this would become more of a recovery effort instead of a rescue effort, but nobody ever gave up.

"We are still seeing the effects of the attack today. The number of deaths related to 9/11, especially after-the-fact, will soon surpass the total number of people killed on that day. It continues, and will continue, to impact us," Chief Stewart said.

The fire department named Louisiana victims in their program. These victims include: U.S. Navy Lt. Michael Scott Lamana, Louis Calvin Williams III, U.S. Navy Info. Systems Technician 2nd Class Kevin Wayne Yokum, Elisabeth Ann "Betty" Farmer, and Retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Robert Joseph Hymel.

"Many people today weren't even born yet when the attack occurred. It's important that we never forget. Tell your children, your grandchildren... and share your story or experience," Chief Stewart said.

Prairieville Fire Department was lucky enough to have applied and receive a piece of steel from the World Trade Center as memorabilia. To continue to share the story of 9/11, they will sometimes bring the steel to schools so children can hear the story of the attack. For many of them, seeing the steel helps them understand it better.

Chief Stewart recommends going to see the 9/11 Memorial in New York, and said, "I know New York isn't the coolest place to visit, but the memorial is magnificent. To walk where those victims once walked and suffered gives you a whole new perspective."

Looking at the enormity of the attack, Chief Stewart considers himself privileged to have been there helping.

A firefighters duty is to save lives and protect property. Sometimes, at a cost. To honor the passing of a comrade, firefighters will ring a bell. The ringing involves 5 rings, 3 times each, which represents that a comrade has fallen and will not be returning.

Jim Cooper, the Assistant Chief of the Prairieville Fire Department, said, "The Ringing of the Bell is a 200 year old tradition. It would often times sound the beginning of a day's shift and the completion of putting out a fire. Now, it more so reflects respect and honor to those who have given so much."

The bell was provided by the St. George Fire Department.

The memorial began with Kirk Jones, Lead Paster at Fellowship Church, giving an invocation and ending with a benediction. There were light refreshments served after the program and memorabilia on display to look at.

Firefighter's Prayer:

When I am called to duty, God wherever flames may rage give me strength to save a life whatever be its age. Let me embrace a little child before it is too late or save an older person from the horror of that fate. Enable me to be alert and hear the weakest shout, and quickly and efficiently to put the fire out. I want to fill my calling to give the best in me, to guard my friend and neighbor and protect their property and, if, according to your will, while on duty I must answer death's call; bless with your protecting hand my family, one and all.

Follow Darian on Twitter: @dariangshark