CRANBERRY TWP — The sound of taps punctuated the memorial ceremony held by the Cranberry Township Volunteer Fire Company Saturday morning to honor the victims and first responders of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
Assistant Chief John Pristas played taps at intervals corresponding to the impact and collapse of the World Trade Center towers, along with the attacks in Shanksville, Pa. and the Pentagon:
8:46 a.m., American Flight 11 hits the north tower;
9:03 a.m., United Flight 175 crashes into the south tower;
9:40 a.m. American Flight 77 crashes into the Pentagon;
9:59 a.m., the World Trade Center's south tower collapses;
10:03 a.m., hijacked United Airlines Flight 93 crashes into a field in Shanksville;
10:28 a.m., the World Trade Center's north tower collapses.
“I originally started doing it just as my own way of acknowledging and remembering the occasion,” said Pristas, who began this ceremony in 2004. “It's my way of letting people know that we cannot forget about this tragedy.”
Pristas, a member of the volunteer organization Bugles Across America, also plays taps for the funerals of veterans and first responders.
The scope of the memorial has grown since and includes a large flag unfurled from the top of the ladder truck from sunrise until sundown facing Route 19.
The ceremony doesn't tend to draw a large crowd of local residents, but Pristas said that it is more a personal memorial.
“This is our company honoring the 343 firefighters who died that day,” he said.
Before he plays, he said, he pauses to reflect.
“Why I continue to even volunteer is to follow up on those who went before me,” he said. “This year, we all have cards of firefighters who perished, and we put one in everyone's locker.”
Trisha Seto and her husband, Norman, of Mars, brought their young son, Roman, to see the ceremony.
“He's 6 years old, and we decided to start introducing him this year to this history,” said Seto, who brought Roman with her to see the United Airlines Flight 93 memorial last week.
“They have such a nice memorial set up that it feels like a good place to pay tribute to those who were lost,” she said.
Jeff Berneburg, a life member of Cranberry fire company, designed the memorial at the fire station which contains a piece of steel from the twin towers.
“We dedicated in 2012,” he said. “It was about a two-and-a-half-year process.”
The memorial features the piece of steel lifted up on two stone pillars representing the towers.
“I really wanted to bring it to the township, so that those who are in the area and passing by would have the chance to come by and see it,” Berneburg said.
Dale Gould, a member of the fire company, said that the memorial has always been “pretty solemn,” especially with the piece of the Ground Zero wreckage.
“People would come and look at it and not say a word,” Gould said. “A lot of people stop and look at it, and they should.”