For some, Sept. 11 has always been marked by ceremony

These children over here? The small group whose teacher has brought them outside? This is the world they know. The only one they’ve ever known.

The one where we pay tribute and talk about heroes and say we will never forget.

Sept. 11, 2001, is their Vietnam. Their World War II. It is something that happened before they were people and it changed the world in such a profound way that they will never truly understand the world as it used to be. The one in which their parents grew up.

They’re a small group today, the 12th anniversary of that horrible day. They’re from a leadership class at Hyde Park Middle School, right next door to the city of Las Vegas Fire Station No. 5.

It’s where the officials have gathered and a couple dozen people fill the bleachers and a gaggle of flags get paraded in by men and women in uniform.

It’s where a prayer follows a soft, angelic rendition of the national anthem by the Hyde Park Middle School Women’s Chorus.

It’s where those kids from the leadership class hold their cell phones out in front of them and record Mayor Carolyn Goodman’s words.

“They wanted to leave a legacy of fear with the American people,” she says. “But we are resilient. That was not the result. Instead, we have a legacy of vigilance and heroism.”

The children watch as Jim Dixon, Clark County’s undersheriff, says 72 police officers and 343 firefighters died during the events that day.

“Hatred has no lasting reward. None. Only valor does,” he says. “On September 11, 2001, we saw valor.”

These children know valor. Their country has been at war almost since the moment they were born. There have been remembrances and ceremonies on this date every year of their lives.

“So much has changed in the world since those days,” says William McDonald, the new chief of the Las Vegas Fire Department. The Middle East, the economy, Osama Bin Laden.

He marvels at the pride and the compassion that we showed one another after that day. He says maybe we ought to keep that in mind.

“This day reminds me of that every year when it comes around,” he says.

Gaylene Mackey brought her 4-year-old granddaughter, Frankie. She says Frankie is too young to explain everything to, but she wants the little girl to know about police and firefighters. To know that they deserve respect, that they work so hard for the rest of us.

“It’s important that she learns it,” Mackey says.

Bonnie Ishom says her dad used to go to the remembrance events every year, back home in Massachusetts. But he died last October, and now it almost feels like it’s her duty to attend. She was at home near the fire station, she says, when she heard the bagpipes.

“It’s just something I had to do,” she says. “I had to come.”

The firefighters ring a bell then, a symbolic gesture to remember the fallen. Policemen fire guns into the air, 21 shots. It’s startlingly loud, jolting.

Taps is played. Music from a single bagpipe floats. It builds, the music, louder and louder. Drums join, and then more bagpipes, and then it reaches a crescendo and it is very loud and it stops.

And the single bagpipe plays. Alone. And quiet comes. And the chorus begins again.

“We will sing and we will not be silenced,” they sing. “Sing a song for unsung heroes.”

Contact reporter Richard Lake at or 702-383-0307.

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