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Firefighters will never forget 9/11

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POLSON — People remember where they were when the twin towers fell on Sept. 11, 2001, just as older folks also can recall where they were when John F. Kennedy was assassinated.

To make sure no one forgets the day the United States was attacked and citizens killed, the Polson Fire Department chose to honor the lost lives by standing at attention wearing full turnouts, holding an American flag on Sept. 11. They stood just west of the NAPA store, facing U.S. Highway 93.

Firefighters split the day up into one hour shifts, with the exception of Terry Gembala, who started the day at 6:46 a.m. Montana time, the time the first tower was hit and stood for 102 minutes, when the tower fell. At that moment, local musician KC Sorenson played “Taps” and “Amazing Grace” on his trumpet.   

“Other groups have (stood for the fallen), Gembala said, “so (Polson Fire Department) decided we’d take it on this year.” 

Gembala said unfortunately at lot of 12-year- old kids didn’t even know what 9/11 was and why people honor the day. 

Maybe not all children do, but 10-year-old Samuel Wood understands. He was riding with his mom, Symona Wood, when they saw the Polson firefighter standing, a vase with a yellow flower near him. 

Samuel asked his mom if they could do something “red, white and blue” so they drove to Safeway, where a florist made a red, white and blue bouquet. Symona told Samuel she would take his picture when he gave the firefighter his flowers.

“I was surprised when (Samuel) saluted,” Symona said. “I’m truly grateful he, on a 10- year-old level, understands that so many people lost their lives (on 9/11) to save others and chose to not only ask to do something, but showed his heart and gratitude by saluting the firefighter.” 

Symona and her husband Randy talk to their kids about 9/11.

“It’s important to my husband and me that our kids understand true service (and) sacrifice. My husband often tells the kids true service is not when its easy, convenient, it’s when we are taken out of our comfort zone.” 

Early on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, Polson firefighter Julie Sisler may have been out of her comfort zone a bit. Sisler’s son, Kenton, was born on 9/11 at 1:45 a.m., so she and husband Matt have a good reason to remember the day, as well as a somber one. 

Julie drew the 10 to 11 a.m. slot after Matt stood from 9 to 10 a.m.

During their honor time, the Sislers said they’d gotten lots of honks, thumbs up and waves from passers by as Old Glory rippled in the breeze.

“The patriots of the country really are the people who work for a living,” Julie Sisler said.

Linda and Carl Angle, Bakersfield, Calif., were so impressed they pulled into the NAPA parking lot to take photos.    

“We’re just here to honor the fallen, remember the reasons for patriotism and remember the sacrifices people have made,” Matt Sisler said. 


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