First responders honored during Athol’s Sept. 11 ceremony

  • Athol Deputy Fire Chief Jeff Parker, left, looks on as department Chaplain Dan Parsons offers the opening prayer at Athol’s 9/11 service. PHOTO/GREG VINE

  • Firefighters from Athol, Petersham and Phillipston participated in Athol Fire Department’s annual 9/11 memorial service on Monday. PHOTO /GREG VINE

For the Athol Daily News
Published: 9/11/2023 6:10:56 PM
Modified: 9/11/2023 6:10:52 PM

ATHOL – The morning’s rain followed by gray skies and the somber knowledge that the community had lost a neighbor in a tragic fire may have limited attendance, many were present at the Athol Fire Department’s annual 9/11 memorial.

At Monday’s event, firefighters, police officers and civilians remembered the nearly 3,000 innocent victims of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

In his opening prayer, Fire Department Chaplain Dan Parsons said, “Particularly, we remember the NYFD and the NYPD, those personnel who were lost to those who labored to rescue and recover their brothers and sisters. Together they walked through the valley of the shadow of death.

“We have seen how the evil of that day has changed the ways of our world. We search for answers and have found them to be beyond our understanding…Even in the presence of a dark shadow there is light, and we honor the chaplains, the clergy and counselors and support workers who have set all differences aside to be the beacons of that light.”

Parsons said the significance of that dark day in American history “will not be forgotten for generations to come.”

Recalling the tragic loss of an Athol woman in a Fern Street fire last Thursday, Parson asked for a moment of silence to remember “the tragedy that has suddenly struck our community.”

After department bagpiper Todd Bowdridge performed a hymn, Deputy Fire Chief Jeff Parker, who led the ceremony, noted that 343 firefighters, 71 law enforcement officers, and 55 military members lost their lives on 9/11, along with 2,508 civilians.

Before a brief prayer, Athol Town Manager Shaun Suhoski offered his thoughts regarding the event’s attendance, which was less than in past years.

“Obviously, the people who are here today are the people who are in our service – your brothers and sisters from Phillipston, Petersham, and our team here in Athol. You never know – you especially – when you’re going to get that call,” he said. “We’ve had a spate of fires here in Athol over the past month, all for different reasons. We’ve had loss of life. We have people here who tried valiantly to get to the victims at great personal risk; people who are trying to save property and lives. That’s what you do. We count on you.”

After Suhoski’s prayer, Athol Police Lt. Ron Cote recited the Police Officer’s Prayer. He was followed by Parker’s reading of the Firefighter’s Prayer. Bowdridge then played “Amazing Grace.”

In closing, Parker recalled words from the last homily given by New York Fire Department Chaplain Mychal Judge during a mass for firefighters on Monday, Sept. 10, 2001.

Father Mychal, a Franciscan friar and Catholic priest, was ultimately recognized as the first official victim of the attacks on 9/11.

“That’s the way it is. Good days. And bad days. Up days. Down days. Sad days. Happy days. But never a boring day on this job,” Parker quoted Judge as saying. “You do what God has called you to do. You show up. You put one foot in front of another. You get on the rig and you go out and you do the job; which is a mystery and a surprise. You have no idea what you get on that rig. No matter how big the call. No matter how small. You have no idea what God is calling you to. But he needs you. He needs me. He needs all of us.”

Greg Vine can be reached at

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