METHUEN — Two years ago the pavilion at Forest Lake burned to the ground at the hands of vandals.
Since then the firefighters of Local 1691 rebuilt the pavilion and on Sept. 9, the city officially reopened the pavilion as part of Methuen’s 9/11 five-year remembrance.
Fire Chaplin the Rev. Robert Conole gave the invocation that included his own personal experience of Sept. 11 and another significant day in American history.
“I’m old enough to remember the JFK assassination,” Conole said. “If you are old enough to remember it, you remember where you were when you found out. The same can be said for 9/11.”
Conole was summoned to Logan International Airport after the terror attacks, and like so many other U.S. citizens, remembers the thoughts going through his head as he approached the tunnel to the airport. He wondered if he was heading into the site of another terrorist attack.
“Talking about 9/11, the way they put us to the test. America’s bravest ran in to offer support and 343 members of the New York Fire Department lost their lives,” said Conole.
He said a blessing for those firefighters who responded when the Twin Towers were attacked, and for all the other innocent victims.
“I’m sure everyone has their own feelings about the attacks, which were motivated by a cause that abuses the name of God,” Conole said.
He added that America needs to not just acknowledge the fifth year anniversary, but to remember it every year.
Chief Cliff Gallant remembered working in the Central Fire Station the morning of the terrorist attacks. He also remembered the day the pavilion was burned to the ground, April 27, 2004.
“Soon after the firefighters of Methuen wanted to rebuild it,” Gallant said. “I am very proud to be a member of the Methuen Fire Department.”
Lt. Tim Sheehy, president of the union, said we should not forget Derrick Bibeau, Matthew Hay and Travis Botta, the three who caused the fire.
“Those three kids owned up to it, called it in and helped out to rebuild it,” Sheehy said. “It was not a malicious act. It was simply a party that got out of control.”
Many public officials were on hand, including State reps Barbara L’Italien and Arthur Broadhurst.
“9/11 was a collected loss of innocence,” L’Italien said. “But it brought forth the best in people.”
L’Italien not only spoke to those in attendance but sang “America the Beautiful,” something Broadhurst chose not to repeat.
“I love fireman,” Broadhurst said with a laugh when asked if he was going to sing. “They are the first to come and step up to the plate. Whether it’s to get a cat out of a tree or to rebuild (the pavilion). Thank you from the bottom of my heart.”
Mayor William Manzi also thanked the firefighters for not just rebuilding the pavilion, but for all the work they do in the community.
Manzi then added his own thoughts about the events of 9/11.
“One of the goals of the terrorist attack was to dampen the American spirit,” Manzi said. “We showed the world you may knock us to the canvas a little bit, but we’ll get up and fight. American spirit cannot be broken.”
The firefighters of Local 1691 did not end their dedication on Saturday morning; they stood proudly outside Central Fire Station on Sept. 11 as the Rev. Conole said a prayer for those lost five years ago.
The bell was rung at exactly 8:46 a.m. –when the first plane struck the World Trade Center — followed by a moment of silence in honor of those lost.
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