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Blue Mass honors 9/11 firefighters, victims
The church hosted a Blue Mass, named for the color of dress uniforms, in honor of the victims, and invited those who serve the public in Yuma County to participate.
“It is extremely important to honor those who died on 9/11 because they were victims of a terrorist attack,” Father Javier Perez told the Yuma Sun after the service.
“We must remember always that we are a nation of freedom, a nation of peace and a nation that takes care of the needs of others, so we need to fight for justice and that was undoubtedly an unjustified action. I want the families who lost their loved ones, not only in the Sept. 11 attacks, but also those who were fighting for us in Iraq and Afghanistan, to remember we are keeping them in our prayers.”
At the beginning of the service, the Knights of Columbus, dressed in full dress uniforms complete with capes, feathered hats and sabers, led the way for a large line of firemen and law enforcement officers who were given positions of honor in the front of the church.
The knights drew their swords and held them high above their heads to create an arch for their honored guests to pass under as they walked to their seats.
Joseph Waterford, battalion chief for YFD, was present to pay homage to those who died in the line of duty.
“It was on 9/11 that we lost 343 firefighters and the community did this for us and to honor us and to honor them,” he said.
“This is also a way for us to honor our fellow brother firefighters and law enforcement officers who died that day.”
Waterford said he was moved by the experience.
“It was wonderful. Being a practicing Catholic myself it was a real honor. It wasn't just a regular Mass, but a high Mass, so there was a little more ceremony. It was a real beautiful service. To be in the center of it makes it even better. It is very humbling.”
At the end of the service as the firefighters and members of law enforcement were escorted out, the entire congregation stood and applauded them.
“It warmed my heart,” Waterford said. “It was really amazing. It is great to have the community support us the way they do. It makes it that much easier for us to do our job. It is an honor and a privilege to serve this community and for them to reciprocate that is just wonderful.”
As a reminder of their constant service even while they themselves were being honored, several fighters raced away from the church to help those in need.
“They are always on duty,” Waterford said. “A couple did have to leave during the ceremony because they did get calls.”
Waterford carries a special memory for the fallen.
“I remember watching the towers collapse. I was a firefighter at the time and I knew what was happening operationally. They were staging equipment and were coming up, and when I saw those towers collapse I turned to my wife and told her at least 300 firefighters were just killed. Sadly enough my estimates were correct.”
After the towers fell Waterford went on duty to serve the people of Yuma.
“Everybody was shell-shocked,” he said. “We were still able to do our jobs and what we had to do because that was the best way we could honor those people - by doing the work and doing the job and not quitting.”
Matt Young, Knights of Columbus Grand Knight, also remembers what he was doing that Tuesday in 2001.
“I was working at Roto-Rooter up in Lake Tahoe and I was just going into work that day when I was watching the news,” he said.
“We got to see it just as it was happening. You saw the bravery of the firemen rushing in to save people and the bravery of the priests standing their blessing people as the building collapsed and took their lives. Even after that happened you continued to see the bravery of others running in to take them out.”
Young said it is important to honor the memory of those who died.
“This is the least we can do to show our appreciation for the freedoms we still enjoy. I think this is a chance to stop and remember their sacrifices.”