LAS VEGAS (KLAS) – For the past 20 years, the Las Vegas Fire Department has honored the lives of the victims of 9/11 with the traditional “Tolling of the Bells” ceremony that marks the time when the World Trade Center South Tower collapsed.
On Saturday morning, local firefighters gathered to pay tribute to the lives lost on Sept. 11, 2001. At almost 6:45 a.m., the ceremony was transmitted from Fire Station Five over the Las Vegas Fire & Rescue’s communications channel. A special U.S. flag that once flew over the WTC has also been hoisted half-staff at the station’s flagpole flew over a piece of steel from the WTC displayed here.
When the World Trade Center fell during the terrorist attacks, a humble pear tree that thousands of office workers used to walk past daily was crushed and buried by the collapse and was found almost a month later amid the rubble. It was excavated and taken to a nursery, where it returned to life. Today, the 30-foot-tree stands tall at the World Trade Center Memorial in New York, and its seedlings are given to three cities around the world yearly.
Last year, the City of Las Vegas was selected to receive the seeds due to the Oct. 1 2017, tragedy. The seedlings from the Surviving Tree, a second seedling from a pear tree, were taken to a nursery to grow. One tree is planted at Fire Station 5, and the other will be at the Police Memorial Park, Saturday at 11 a.m.
FRANK PIZARRO SINGS THE NATIONAL ANTHEM
In addition to the bell ringing, the flag-raising, the tribute included the singing of the national anthem by a New York City firefighter. A Las Vegas resident, Frank Pizarro, was assigned to FDNY Engine 76 and was off duty when the first plane struck the World Trade Center. Like many other off-duty firefighters on that day, Pizarro drove to his assigned fire station to help.
When he and his fellow crew members arrived at the World Trade Center, the first tower had already fallen and as they searched for victims, the second tower started to come down over them. The firefighters retreated into a parking garage for safety and for several consecutive days, the crew continued to help with search and rescue efforts.
Pizarro, a professional singer, was also a lead member of the Platters musical group for several years.
THE ORIGIN OF THE ‘TOLLING OF THE BELLS’ TRADITION
The ringing of the bell is a long-standing fire service tradition that existed before radio communications were part of day-to-day operations—servicemen communicated via assigned fire alarm boxes on street corners.
Back then, firefighters noted their locations by memorizing the numbers on their boxes. When a person pulled a fire alarm, the signal would go to all the fire stations by wire and ring the bell at the stations to then ring the number issued to that box so that firefighters would respond. If a firefighter was killed in the line of duty, fire dispatch would ring the bell in sets of five, three times to let everyone in the department know that a firefighter had just lost their lives in the line of duty.
The traditional “Tolling of the Bells” ceremony has been held at Fire Station Five yearly since the attacks occurred.