Following the ceremony, Ontario firefighter Jonathan Rico poses with his son Landon, who wore a fire suit and badge that reads “junior fire chief.” Landon aspires to be a firefighter, just like dad. (Enterprise photos/Ardeshir Tabrizian)

ONTARIO - The community gathered last Friday to reflect on a national tragedy.

A ceremony was held at Four Rivers Cultural Center in remembrance of those who died in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the United States 19 years ago. Nearly 3,000 people were killed in the coordinated attacks in New York, Washington D.C., and Pennsylvania; the toll included some 400 first responders who rushed to respond as hijacked planes struck the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York.

Last week's memorial event was hosted by the Ontario American Legion and the city of Ontario.

Addressing the crowd, Ontario Fire Chief Terry Leighton said first responders today face a more dangerous work environment than ever before.

“We are forced to continually change our strategies and tactics to accomplish our tasks,” said Leighton. “Our methods may change but our goals remain the same – as they were in the past, to save lives and to protect property, sometimes at a terrible cost. This is what we do, this is our chosen profession, this is the tradition of the first responder. Our business of today is ever-changing, but it is steeped in traditions of hundreds of years old.”

One of those traditions, he said, is the tolling of the bell. For first responders, the sound of a bell, horn or tones historically has signaled a number of things – a call to act, the beginning of a day’s shift, the completion of a call, or a first responder dying in the line of duty.

In honor of those first responders, Leighton stood before the crowd and tolled the bell.

Ontario Fire Chief Leighton tolled the bell – three rings, three times each, representing “the end of our comrades' duties” and their return to quarters, he said. “To our comrades, their last alarm. They are going home.”

Daniel Burks, American Legion district commander, gave a speech paying respects to those who were killed or injured in the Sept. 11 attacks, as well as members of the armed forces who have since died or been injured in active duty.

“We as a nation and in our home community owe these heroes, along with our first responders, not just our respect, not just our gratitude, but every effort to support them,” Burks said.

After a moment of silence, Ontario Mayor Riley Hill praised the efforts of first responders during the Covid pandemic.

Ontario Mayor Riley Hill asked the crowd to join him in an applause for first responders, who "risk their lives for us."

“I think we should enthusiastically be behind our police, our fire, our ambulance people and our health care professionals,” said Hill. “It is just as important now to remember them as it was the first responders that went to the Trade Centers.”

Hill held up a Blue Star Service flag, which Burks said honors members of the armed forces.  

In his closing remarks, Burks said, “This is a day for all of us to remember and carry forward and pass on to our children the remarks of what we heard today.”

Burks and Leighton shake hands at the conclusion of the ceremony.

News tip? Contact reporter Ardeshir Tabrizian by email at [email protected] or call 503-929-3053.

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Ontario ceremony honored 9/11 victims

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