>A guest editorial offers a personal view of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on America ... followed by a comment on Prineville's array of memorials in Ochoco Creek Park
Here at the fire station, like most of the free world, we watched in horror as our citizens were senselessly murdered. There are no words that can adequately describe the enormous loss of life or the disruption of the Americana we are used to. Moreover, we have lost our sense of innocence. As I stood and watched these historic events, a young lady came into the station (in tears) and asked, "Who would want to be there right now?" It did not surprise me when every fire fighter's hand in the room silently raised.
   The fire service is a small community, and no doubt I know some of those men and women that were killed. However, I have resisted the temptation to call FDNY (Fire Department New York) because I know they are extremely overwhelmed back there. So instead, I find my thoughts drifting to the events of my own career, and I look at the fresh faces that are just starting out in their careers. I think of the history of our own community, and beyond to the history of our freedom. I would like to share some of those thoughts with you.
   It is important to know I don't consider myself to be a brave man, nor did the hundreds of fire fighters that rushed into the building never to return. Instead, we are helpers that have seen pain and suffering until we are driven to do whatever we can to minimize loss wherever we can. I have seen the horror in a family member's eyes after they have seen their loved one(s) burned beyond recognition. I have seen the pain of parents who have lost a child in a car crash. The anguish of a spouse that is coming to the realization that their soul mate has just died suddenly from cardiac arrest. The disbelief and confusion a family feels when they lose everything they own from fire.
   I smile when I think of the times our community banded together in order to survive. When the railroad went to Bend, we rolled up our sleeves and built our own railroad. When we lost 13 fire fighters on Storm King Mountain, we grieved, held our heads high, and looked for ways to help those families afflicted with tragedy. When our football team went to Portland to play the championship game, the sign at the end of town proudly stated "Last one out of town turn out the lights." We meant it too, 10,000 of us went to watch the home team win. When our community flooded; once again, 10,000 of us turned out to fill sand bags, feed people, house the displaced citizens, and help replace essential items they lost in the flood such as food and clothes. Time moves on, and the memories of the pain from those wounds, or the joy and pride of those accomplishments fades. However events such as these make up who we are, and they must never be forgotten.
   Freedom truly is advanced citizenship, and if we are going to remain a free society, we will have to hold our heads high, and refuse to give in to the terror these animals are trying to instill in us. Once again, we will be asked to roll up our sleeves and do what we can to preserve this great nation. Our national freedom and way of life comes with a price tag. That freedom has been bought and paid for with real human blood, sweat, hopes, dreams and lives. In this new time of war it will be critical that all of us do our part to support our President, his staff, and our armed forces. It is critical that we also do whatever we can to support our own neighbors and community.
   So many of you have called the station looking for ways to help the people of New York. First, we all have some grieving to do. However, as soon as possible it is important for us all to return to being the best clerk, carpenter, business leader, clergyman, healthcare worker etc. that we can be. This is perhaps the simplest way to be of service. Don't let the death and destruction on the East coast be in vain. If we change our American way of life, we are not only letting the terrorist win, we are dishonoring the thousands of Americans who have paid for our freedom with their lives.
   As I said, I don't consider myself to be particularly courageous, but I have seen the face of courage, and so have you. Each and every one of you sees that same face of courage everyday, every time you look in the mirror. Remember, you are an American.
   God Bless
   John Hite
   Fire Fighter and neighbor
   And now on another subject,
a word from our editors
   There is one corner of Ochoco Creek Park that is beginning to look like, and attract attention like, a destination point. A few weeks ago, firefighters brought in from out of state to work a wildland fire north of here made a special effort to visit the Wildland Firefighters Memorial. A few of them had been on the Storm King Fire in Colorado where so many Prineville Hotshots died. The brief visit to the monument was important to them.
   It was almost equally important to the rest of the several bus loads of yellow-shirt-wearing firefighting crews. They all understood the dangers of their job, and the value of what they do. The monument is not just the property of local people ... it belongs to all wildland firefighters.
   But that isn't the only focal point in that corner of the community's favorite park. There is also the Desert Storm Memorial Tree and now the POW/MIA Circle of Honor monument.
   Last weekend, hundreds of people came to the park to witness the dedication of the newest memorial. As noted elsewhere, they came in cars, trucks, RVs and motorcycles. There were veterans of a number of wars and battles. There were former servicemen and women who had served. As honored guests, there were former prisoners of war.
   All the veterans at the dedication deserved the gratitude that this community, this state, this nation can show. However there is one vet who should get an extra helping - that man is Earl Hendrix.
   It took more than a year and a half of fund-raising effort by the local veterans organizations. Earl, a local contractor and a Vietnam veteran, took on the job of building the landmark. With his crews, his machinery and his labor, the Circle of Honor was completed; all donated.
   One story has it that last Friday, just to make sure everything would be completed in time for Saturday's dedication, Earl worked late. Someone reported that he was taking care of the final touches at about midnight.
   Everybody who had a hand in the monument, in the dedication should get a big pat on the back. The NJROTC cadets, members of the VFW and VFW Auxiliary, members of the American Legion and American Legion Auxiliary and everyone else. But it is Earl and his crew who should get the round of applause.
   Good job, Earl. You can take pride in the monument you built. It will become a landmark for veterans and others to visit when honoring our POW/MIAs. And when wanting to reaffirm: We won't forget.
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