Park City fire captain delivers stirring Sept. 11 remarks, talking of the meaning of ‘Never forget’
Eric Hintze speech was one of the memorable moments of 20th anniversary commemoration
The crowd on Saturday at a ceremony in Park City marking the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks was respectful throughout the proceedings at City Park, standing at attention as emergency services personnel observed the protocol of the day.
The flag was raised and lowered, there was a three-volley salute by a law enforcement rifle honor guard and a bell tolled. Former Gov. Gary Herbert delivered the keynote address while a retired battalion chief from the Fire Department of New York who was working on Sept. 11 recounted the horrors of the day.
But a representative of the Park City Fire District, an agency far removed physically from New York City, delivered some of the most stirring remarks of the morning. The Fire District has had a role in the Sept. 11 memorials over the years, but this year’s gathering was especially notable for the agency coming so soon after the late-July death of Chief Paul Hewitt from injuries he suffered in an off-duty accident.
Eric Hintze, a captain in the Fire District, was part of a lineup of speakers from emergency agencies who addressed the crowd between the two moments that marked the times when the two towers of the World Trade Center collapsed.
“Since that fateful day exactly 20 years ago, a simple two-word phrase has become synonymous with the tragedy and pain felt by so many. Those words are ‘Never forget,’” Hintze said. “It’s a battle cry that rises from the dust and ash, reminding us to never forget the heroism, sacrifice and duty shown by emergency responders and civilians alike.”
He continued, saying he has seen and listened to the phrase “Never forget” repeatedly over 20 years. The phrase “has been scribed on the side of fire trucks across the country” and there are murals and other artworks in fire stations in the U.S., he said.
“As we embody what it means to ‘Never forget,’ it requires that we take action to learn and appreciate who these individuals were in the first place,” Hintze said.
He provided an account of a famous decision by a Fire Department of New York captain to remain with two men inside the World Trade Center while commanding the firefighting crew he was with to leave. Billy Burke perished in the collapse with the two men he was helping. Hintze also honored one of the men — Abe Zelmanowitz — who remained with the wheelchair-bound third person. Hintze said Burke “made a life-defining decision in that moment.” The decision “saved the lives of his crew, but ultimately cost him his own,” Hintze said.
“Captain Burke and Abe Zelmanowitz showed incredible courage and selflessness in the face of unimaginable danger. Their sacrifice serves as a constant reminder of who we can be,” Hintze said. “To you fireman, police officers and other public servants, may you have the courage of Capt. Burke to sacrifice your own life for the safety of others.”
He continued: “To you citizens, whose job duties may not require the ultimate sacrifice, may you embrace the example of Abe, whose love for his friend caused him to remain loyal and by his side until the bitter end.”
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