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‘An important symbol’

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— image credit:
 MATTHEW NASH

A 10-day trip by Sequim Police officers is the source of an ongoing remembrance for Sequim.

At noon on Sunday, Sept. 11, Police Chief Bill Dickinson, Detective Darrell Nelson and Officer Randy Kellas arrived with an 843-pound piece of sheet metal from the terrorist attacks 10 years ago on the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers in New York City.

A caravan of Clallam County Fire District 3 fire trucks, police vehicles and Patriot Guard motorcyclists escorted the officers from Discovery Bay to the Museum & Arts Center’s DeWitt building, where a large American flag swayed in the breeze above a sea of supportive Sequim residents.

Dickinson told the Gazette he was truly amazed at the turnout.

“People were along the street saluting as we came in,” he said. “It helps us to know our community really cares.”

The officers all commented on how much patriotism they saw on their trip as they visited restaurants and coffee shops, and passed by vehicles with signs and tributes.

Dickinson said that morning they saw a man by himself waving a flag on an overpass.

“Patriotism is alive in this country,” Dickinson told the hundreds of people gathered. “It’s truly awe-inspiring. God bless America.”

Kellas said bringing the artifact to Sequim helps bring a sense of community to the small city and recognizes sacrifices people made for the many across the country.

The officers traveled more than 6,400 miles from Sequim to New York City and back in Nelson’s pickup truck and saw several milestones along the way, including Ground Zero.

“It’s something (people) have to see for themselves,” Nelson said. “It’s humbling more than anything.”

They later visited the Pentagon and the United Airlines Flight 93 memorial in Shanksville, Pa. Officers said the Flight 93 site was the most emotional because of the transcripts of phone calls from passengers to loved ones.

Dickinson said he gained a much greater appreciation of the people who died that day after visiting all three sites.

Artifact to monument
The trip began Sept. 1 when officers left Sequim for Hangar 17 at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York to pick up the piece of metal released by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

The metal has some dents on the surface from trauma on one side but the other side hasn’t been seen yet because of its weight. Officers received a memorial flag with the names of service men and women lost in the attack printed in the stripes, which was folded and displayed by Sequim officers Mark Poole and Paul Dailidenas during the ceremony.

The crowd held a moment of silence and ended the unveiling with the Pledge of Allegiance.

Speakers at the event included Mayor Pro Tem Laura Dubois reading a statement from Mayor Ken Hays, who was gone for a previous engagement, City Manager Steve Burkett, Fire Chief Steve Vogel and Dickinson. The artifact then went to the Sequim Veterans of Foreign Wars building for a special event before being stored with Fire District 3.

Dickinson said in weeks to come he’ll consult with city councilors about details of constructing a memorial using the metal piece and consulting with local artists on a design.

“I think it’s an important symbol,” he said.

What it means
For the trip, officers used their own vacation time, giving up important time with family.

Kellas’ wife, Tracey, said her husband gave up vacation for people who don’t get to go home.

“It was more than worth it, so people could get a sense of what happened,” she said. “I’m proud of them for going.”

Dickinson said he was grateful for donations from the community that helped pay for their trip. So much support came in that extra funds go to the future memorial, he said.

When Dickinson visited Ground Zero, he noticed officers on duty probably were teenagers 10 years ago and that as time goes by people might forget.

“I worry we might forget this attack, but I hope this (artifact) helps us not to forget,” he said. “Our freedom is fragile.”

To contribute to a future memorial project, drop off a check at City Hall, 152 W. Cedar St., or at the Sequim Police Department, 609 W. Washington St. Make checks to “City of Sequim 9/11 Fund.” Contact the City of Sequim at 683-4139 and the Sequim Police Department at 683-7227.

Reach Matthew Nash at mnash@sequimgazette.com.

 

 

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