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Rochester remembers lives lost on September 11, 2001

Randy Gorbman/WXXI News
A large flag displayed by fire trucks during 9/11 ceremonies at Monroe Community College in Brighton

It was a day of remembrance around the Rochester area and all over the country Saturday as the nation marked the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks in 2001 that killed nearly 3,000 people.

A concrete memorial at the Brighton campus of Monroe Community College was built in 2002, not long after the attacks. While there is a ceremony there every September 11th, Saturday’s event drew a larger crowd — a mix of first responders, veterans and active military members, and students, some of whom were not even born when the attacks happened.

Credit Randy Gorbman/WXXI News
The memorial to the 9/11 victims which was built in 2002 at the Monroe Community College campus in Brighton.

That’s why people like Keith Dawson, who spent 25 years in the Army working as a flight medic and is now a nursing student at MCC, tries to educate his fellow, younger students on what 9/11 and its aftermath meant to a lot of people.

“A lot of them don’t know what this was about, and all they see is what’s in the news, and Afghanistan, Iraq, why we were there,” Dawson said. “This symbolizes why we were there because they came onto our soil and they picked the fight, so now we have to symbolize, they didn’t lose their lives for nothing.”

Credit Randy Gorbman/WXXI News
Dan Chapman, Chief of the Fishers Fire District, speaking Saturday at a 9/11 ceremony at Monroe Community College in Brighton.

Among the speakers at Saturday’s event was Dan Chapman, Fishers Fire District chief. He remembered a former chief, Andy Stromfeld, who died in March from cancer that was linked to his service in the New York City Police Department. Stromfeld was among those involved in the search for survivors at the Twin Towers. Chapman said that when Stromfeld moved to this area, he wanted to keep helping his community.

"He just kept wanting to serve, I laugh because he was a police officer who always wanted to be a fireman," Chapman said.  "He was a volunteer down there. When he moved up here, he quickly joined the Fishers Fire Department and moved up through the ranks and was an excellent role model to all my younger employees.”

Monroe County on Saturday also officially unveiled the War on Terror Memorial, which is located in a part of Highland Park now renamed Gary Beikirch Memorial Park.

The memorial, located near the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, was built to honor the memory of area service members who have died in military conflicts since 1990.

Credit Office of Monroe County Executive Adam Bello
The new Monroe County War on Terror Memorial, in Gary Beikirch Memorial Park, located near the Vietnam Veterans Memorial at Highland Park.

Among the speakers at the ceremony was Orlando Ortiz-Rivera, whose brother, Marine Staff Sgt. Javier Ortiz-Rivera, was killed in Afghanistan in 2010. Orlando is glad that there is a memorial like this that is closer to home.

“I find comfort in knowing that despite the time that passes by there are people in our community who continue to keep his memory and others alive. I find comfort in knowing that although he is currently buried in Arlington cemetery there is now a place right here in Rochester for us to come and pay our respects to,” Ortiz-Rivera said.

Ortiz-Rivera also is president of Rochester’s Puerto Rican festival, and he noted that shortly before his brother was killed, he made sure that the festival had an American flag that had flown in Afghanistan.

Randy Gorbman is WXXI's director of news and public affairs. Randy manages the day-to-day operations of WXXI News on radio, television, and online.