Hilliard honors 9-11 victims at First Responders Park
The Norwich Township Fire Department and Hilliard Division of Police honored those killed in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks during a ceremony Tuesday, Sept. 11, at First Responders Park in Old Hilliard.
Among those in the solemn throng of onlookers were four siblings honoring their eldest brother, Robert Ferris, whose name is among the nearly 3,000 names engraved on the black granite walls of the park.
For Charlie Ferris, 64, of Evergreen, Colo., the occasion marked the first time he had seen First Responders Park, which was dedicated two years ago as a memorial to firefighters, police officers and civilians killed in the terrorist attacks.
The park also contains a piece of steel from the World Trade Center towers, one of which Robert Ferris was inside on Sept. 11, 2001, in New York City when two hijacked airplanes were flown into each tower. He was on the 101st floor of the South Tower, where he worked as a safety engineer for AON. He left behind a wife and three adult children.
"He was (in Columbus) to see us in August (2001)," said Mary Ellen Geyer, of Upper Arlington.
Ed Ferris, of Upper Arlington, and Bernadette Mason, of Grove City, were Ferris' other siblings at the memorial service. A fifth sibling lives out of state.
Robert Ferris was the eldest of the six siblings who grew up in Clintonville.
"It's a beautiful park. I wouldn't have missed being here," Charlie Ferris said.
For Ed Ferris, there is a personal and professional connection to First Responders Park. His firm, E.P. Ferris and Associates, was involved in the design of the park.
"It's a special place to be," he said.
Hilliard Mayor Don Schonhardt, Norwich Township Fire Chief Bob Kaufman, Police Chief Doug Francis and state Sen. Jim Hughes (R-Columbus) were among those who spoke at the ceremony.
Kaufman told those gathered that life cannot be taken for granted "because it can be gone in an instant."
Francis thanked those who made time to recognize a "special moment and an unforgettable day."
In the years that have passed since the attacks, Francis said, citizens have asked how they can best remember the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2011. He said the best way is to gather at the park and practice the words inscribed therein, "We Shall Never Forget."
Schonhardt said the events of Sept. 11 "overwhelmingly remain in the consciousness of Americans."
Recounting the actions of police officers and firefighters who rushed toward the chaos at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and the passengers of the fourth and last hijacked plane who prevented it from reaching its intended target, Schonhardt said, "Our American spirit is defined by our innate ability to reach out and help others, even in times of unthinkable crises and unfathomable odds.
"Today ... we honor the brave and courageous first responders who died that day. As we stand here today, let me invite you to take away from this place a renewed commitment to the principles that made this nation the greatest on Earth."