By Steve Ranson, Lahontan Valley News Editor Emeritus
Hundreds of stories telling of heroism and sacrifice emerged out of the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001, when almost 3,000 people died, including first responders and passengers from four passenger planes that crashed into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and in a western Pennsylvania field.
The lives of the people and first responders lost 17 years ago bridge every state and many countries as Fernley’s Darin Farr attested during his remarks. Farr, a young 21-year-old Marine in 1991 during the early days of Desert Storm more than 25 years ago, told his story Tuesday morning at the Nevada Veterans Coalition’s 9/11 Memorial when he was part of a TRAP (tactical recovery of aircraft personnel) mission that would roll into Iraq to rescue pilots if they were shot down. According to Farr, he met a fellow serviceman a few years older, a Marine Corps reservist from New York, who was in the Middle East for only six weeks. In that short time, Farr learned much about Greg Sikorsky, a brother in arms thousands of miles away from the shores of the United States.
“I asked him what he did in the real world, a banker? He said firefighter, third generation,” Farr recalled, noting his fellow Marine lived in Wesley Hills, a small town in Rockland County, only 9 miles north of New York City.
Sikorsky had an adventurous streak about him as described in his obituary. In addition to being a firefighter and Marine, Sikorsky became a licensed pilot, a Harley Davidson rider, skydiver, skier, automobile mechanic and licensed tractor-trailer driver. He and his younger brother were extremely close and, according to the obituary, took their first skydiving trip together and recently rode in a Harley Davidson rally from New York to a drive-in diner in New Jersey.
In 1986 Sikorsky joined New York City’s fire department in 1986 and was assigned to Engine 46 in the Bronx. He was also assigned to Engine 47 and 50 Truck before transferring to Squad 41 in 2000. For 16 years, he had also been a volunteer with Hillcrest Fire Department.
“We stayed in contact for a few years after that (Desert Storm) but we grew apart like most people,” Farr lamented.
Ten years later, though, Farr learned the 34-year-old Sikorsky died when the South Tower of the World Trade Center collapsed. His remains were never found until almost nine months later — along with two other heroes — when excavators at Ground Zero made their discovery. Farr then paused, his eyes watering and his voice choking up as he continued his story. Farr said he called Greg’s wife, Marie, who told him to tell her husband’s story. At the time of his death, their son was 3 years old, but now, said Farr, he’s 20 and has the desire to follow in his father’s footsteps to be a firefighter.
One lesson Farr learned from Greg’s death is to educate children on the meaning of true sacrifice.
Speaker after speaker on Tuesday told about the heroics displayed by the first responders and of their sacrifices on a clear, late summer day in New York City 17 year ago.
Fernley Mayor Roy Edgington offered a short chronology on the events leading to the crash of the fourth jet in Pennsylvania.
“It was the deadliest incident involving firefighters and law enforcement officers in the United States,” Edgington said, noting 343 firefighters and 72 policemen died.
Three days later, he said Congress approved the use of force to fight terrorism. Although he said the military is at an all-time low, Edgington said the United States is at war against terrorism every day, and the armed forces defend this country and the residents’ way of life.
Chief Scott Huntley of the North Lyon County Fire Protection District thanked first responders and the military and encouraged parents and grandparents to tell the children about 9/11. He quoted a passage from the late Ariz. Sen John McCain that said true leaders work through their differences. Huntley said it’s unique to be an
“Every day, we can’t forget what others have done for us – on the military and their service, and your first responders ….,” he added.
Huntley concluded his remarks by referring to Matthew 7:12.
“That’s the Golden Rule: simple,” he said.
Lyon County Sheriff Al McNeil served in the U.S. Marine Corps for 21 years, a span that included the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. He said people from all walks of life showed heroism and compassion on that day.
“Our nation was all together as one,” he said.
McNeil was very direct when he said the United States and its people will not be intimidated by its enemies.
Prior to the beginning of the 9/11 remembrance, the 17th straight event hosted by the NVC, veterans hoisted two flags, one for Blue Star mothers who have sons or daughters in active military service, and the second for Gold Star mothers who lost a son or daughter in the active armed forces.
In a special passing of the flag, Vayda Haagland, who was born after 9/11, passed the U.S. flag to her mother, Sgt. First Class Mayra Haagland, who then raised the flag to half-staff. Haagland, a member of the Nevada Army National Guard, served in the active army for 14 years and was deployed to Iraq from 2006-2007.
The Fernley High School choir sang the national anthem.
At the end of the ceremony, Dave Burns, a teacher at Fernley Intermediate School, read a background on his principal, Rob Jacobson, who received the Patriot of the Year Award for his support and the school’s support of the military and country. Two NVC buglers played “Taps” as a solemn reminder to honor those who died 17 years ago.