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‘Never forget’: First responders, community pay tribute to 9/11 victims

Updated September 15, 2021 - 4:14 pm

At a special ceremony Saturday, local first responders urged people to never forget those who died 20 years ago during the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

“As a New Yorker, I was livid, nervous because this was happening on my doorstep as well as in other cities in America,” said Jay Dardano, a firefighter and paramedic with the Boulder City Fire Department.

Dardano said he was 25 years old on Sept. 11, 2001, living in upstate New York and working as a firefighter and paramedic.

He was one of two local first responders at the special remembrance tribute in Bicentennial Park who shared their experiences from 20 years ago when planes crashed into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania, killing almost 3,000 people. Of those who died, 403 were first responders.

“As an American, I was angry at the thought that my country might be under attack and wondering what was to come next,” said Dardano. “As a first responder, I felt the need to be there in the thick of it, to help my fellow New Yorkers and first responders, so that’s what I did.”

Dardano said he was part of a task force group from his department that went to ground zero the afternoon of Sept. 11. He spent days “combing through the pile for survivors” before he was rotated out.

“Personally, I will … never forget 9/12,” he said. “The days, weeks and months that followed, as I watched a city of almost 9 million people … come together and a nation of over 300 million Americans unite and be thankful.”

“It’s interesting to reflect … saying let’s never forget,” said Boulder City Police Cmdr. Aaron Johnson. “We will always remember. It’s something I cannot forget. It’s ingrained in my head.”

Johnson said he was a lance corporal in the United States Marine Corps, stationed in Yuma, Arizona, 20 years ago on Sept. 11. He said he spent the day with his best friend, whose brother worked in one of the towers and was killed.

The Sept. 11 remembrance ceremony was organized by Jason King, pastor of Calvary Chapel in Boulder City.

King said he thought it went really well and he was pleased with the attendance and community’s participation.

“They took it in the serious manner it should be,” he said.

“I just think it’s something we need to keep up every year,” said Rich Ford, who attended the ceremony. “People who weren’t born yet need to know what happened and remember who were lost.”

Fellow attendee Don Wood said he was headed to a Veterans Affairs clinic when he heard about a plane hitting the World Trade Center. After he arrived there, he saw the totality of the attacks unfold.

“I came to show respect for what happened and those who died,” he said.

Another attendee, Dan Wilken, said he clearly remembers the events of Sept. 11, 2001.

“It’s still a scary thought and for all the guys in uniform here today,” he said, noting that he believes first responders and military members should be recognized for their efforts more than just one day a year.

In addition to honoring those who died Sept. 11, King organized a tribute for the 13 United States military service members who died Aug. 26 in an attack in Kabul, Afghanistan.

The Southern Nevada Patriot Guard Riders presented 13 American flags, one for each military member who died.

“When Jason asked us to do this, to honor the 13 … it was one of the most honorable things I’ve ever been able to do,” said Dan “Bull” Cox, assistant state captain for the Patriot Guard Riders.

Saturday’s ceremony also featured area pastors praying for the fire department, police department, Boulder City Hospital and the National Park Service as well as a speech by Boulder City Mayor Kiernan McManus.

“I really appreciate Pastor King and the other ministers for putting this all together,” said Mayor McManus.

Boulder City Review Editor Hali Bernstein Saylor contributed to this report. She can be reached at hsaylor@bouldercityreview.com or at 702-586-9523. Follow @HalisComment on Twitter.

Contact reporter Celia Shortt Goodyear at cgoodyear@bouldercityreview.com or at 702-586-9401. Follow her on Twitter @csgoodyear.

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