January 14, 2002
A tribute to more than 500 lost on 9-11
by Bronwyn Wilson
Senior Staff Reporter
The name Sean Hanley may not strike recognition, but his sacrifice will.
Hanley, from the New York area, was among the hundreds of fire, police and medical personnel who raced to the World Trade Center when it was ablaze on the morning of Sept.11, 2001.
He had just finished his shift for the night when he heard the news of the horrific emergency. The 35-year-old firefighter could have headed home, but didn't.
Instead, he joined his fellow firefighters at the scene where many were working their way up the burning skyscraper's stairwell. People making their way down the stairs recall stepping aside to let them pass.
The firefighters trudged upward toward the fire while loaded down with helmets, bunker pants, leather boots, compressed air cylinders for breathing, radios and assorted axes and hand tools.
That morning 343 firefighters, including Hanley, would die in the effort to rescue civilians who were injured or trapped.
Many police officers and employees of the Port Authority of New York, the government agency that runs New York's airports, harbor bridges and tunnels, would also lose their lives trying to save the lives of others.
Since then, tributes to their memory are everywhere, from reader boards in front of businesses to Web sites to the display of a lone pair of firefighter boots in the front yard of a Woodinville residence.
The staff at the Woodinville City Hall also wanted to pay tribute and express their heartfelt sympathy.
They compiled a large list naming all the public servants who lost their lives in the line of duty on 9-11. The list now hangs on a wall in the west lobby and has over 500 names, including Sean Hanley's.
On the wall next to the list, a banner announces the words, "God Bless America."
The banner is crammed from top to bottom with personal expressions, comments and signatures.
Back in September, the banner had been part of the multi-denominational service held at City Hall for citizens mourning the national loss.
Afterward, it was left in the lobby and soon caught the attention of people passing by. They penned their thoughts on it and signed their names. "Keep the faith!" someone passionately wrote. "Good will prevail," wrote another. Other personal remarks included, "I live strong and free"... "Thank you for your sacrifice"... "This nation is blessed"... "As a land of many faiths, we will be stronger united than divided."
City Manger Pete Rose typed a message to the city staff suggesting they take a moment to stop and look at the display in the west lobby.
He asked them to notice the names of those who died in the service of others.
"They stayed and served in the most difficult conditions imaginable with something greater than shadow and smoke looming over them," he wrote.
He also asked them to take a look at the banner and noted that the numerous personal inscriptions made the banner's once white background appear black.
He went on to write: "As [the banner] picks up more words, it sits as silent testament to the search for meaning to the loss of all those lives in all those places, not just those of the public servant-perhaps an awakening of the soul to accompany the rude awakening of the mind."
The staff at Woodinville City Hall invites the public to stop by and visit the tribute.