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Park City Remembers the 20th Anniversary of September 11th With Solemn Ceremony

Sean Higgins

Dozens of Parkites and local first responders came together Saturday morning to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the September 11th attacks with a silent procession and ceremony at City Park.


The procession began at 7am as members of the Park City Fire District’s Honor Guard carried an American Flag and led first responders and members of the public on a solemn march up Park Avenue. Bagpipes played as the procession turned toward the Miners Hospital at City Park where the flag was carefully folded, marched past memorials to the over 400 firefighters and police officers killed on 9/11, and displayed beside a firefighters’ bell.


Several members of the local first responder community spoke, including retired FDNY Battalion Chief Robert Keys, who responded to the 9/11 attacks and now lives in Park City.


“I worked 31 years with the FDNY,” Keys said. “On 9-11, 2001, we lost 343 firefighters, many of them were my friends. 20 years ago, I took a vow to never forget, and that’s gonna be the theme of my remarks today; to never forget those brave heroes, those colleagues of mine, those friends of mine.”


Instead of speaking of his personal experience on that day, Keys instead spoke of two of his friends: Battalion Chief Orio Palmer and Firefighter Steve Belson, who both perished when the South Tower of the World Trade Center collapsed.


Palmer ascended to the 78th floor, and was the first firefighter to give a situation report of the impact zone where a passenger jet hijacked by terrorists had struck the building. Palmer remained on the radio until the moment the tower collapsed.


Palmer has a memorial plaque at the No Name Saloon on Park City’s Main Street, and his efforts to reach the victims on the upper floors of the tower inspired the annual memorial stair climbs performed by firefighters. The FDNY physical fitness award was also named in his honor after his death. Keys remembered how fit Palmer was throughout his career.


“Orio was a marathon runner and a triathlete,” remembered Keys. “He was the only member in the FDNY to ever win the physical fitness award five times. You could only qualify for it every three years, it was extremely strenuous, you had to run three miles with your heart in a target heart rate and follow that up with multiple physical fitness -- chin-ups, pull-ups. Anyway, he was a super athlete, and he proved it.” 


The moments both towers fell were marked by a dispatch call and the ringing of the fire bell.


Former Utah Governor Gary Herbert was the keynote speaker of the ceremony. Herbert remembered where he was on that day, and the unity in the country that followed. He lamented at the divisiveness and lack of civility seen in America as of late, and wondered if the Parkites in attendance could use the memory of 9/11 as inspiration to strive towards a better country.


“It’s been said, never doubt that a small group of committed, dedicated people can change the world,” Herbert said. “Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has changed the world. I see a small group of dedicated, committed people here today that got up early to remember something that happened 20 years ago and what it represents to us today and what we can do for tomorrow.”


Dixie Lewis lives in Draper and was in Washington, D.C. when the attacks occurred. She shared why she thinks it’s important to always remember the events of that day 20 years ago.


“I think it’s important that we don’t ever forget the people that suffered and died, but just remember that we need to love each other and never forget that we’re all Americans,” said Lewis.


A lone firefighter dressed in bunker gear and one police officer in his patrol uniform then slowly marched away from the ceremony to symbolize the final farewell to the fallen.