On Monday morning, amidst the natural splendor of the Pennsylvania countryside, a stentorian voice will rise among a hushed and tearful crowd, as one-by-one, the names of forty brave Americans are respectfully read aloud by a Fire Captain from Los Angeles.
The inspiring story of Flight 93 neither begins nor ends on this fifth anniversary of the savage attacks on our nation and its people, but on this one day, the men and women of America's Fire Service stand a little taller and more closely, as they share in the profound honor of having one of their own participate in the ceremony to honor these revered American Heroes.
On September 11, 2001, shortly after terrorists flew airplanes into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center and into the Pentagon, the forty passengers and crewmembers on United Airlines Flight 93 fought and won a battle in the sky, thwarting a planned attack on our nation’s capital and saving countless lives - but sacrificing their own in a field just east of Pittsburgh, in Somerset County.
The path that led LAFD Captain Stephen Ruda to speak at Monday's gathering at the Flight 93 National Memorial is one that strengthens and unites our vocation, while galvanizing our promise to 'never forget'.
It was in the days following the attacks that Captain Ruda wrote an inspiring message on a quilted wall hanging, one of countless items sent as a tribute to the passengers and crew of Flight 93. His heartfelt opening words soon became the preamble to the mission statement of the Flight 93 National Memorial:
"A common field one day. A field of honor forever. May all who visit this place remember the collective acts of courage and sacrifice of the passengers and crew, revere this hallowed ground as the final resting place of those heroes, and reflect on the power of individuals who choose to make a difference."
Captain Stephen Ruda
Los Angeles Fire Department
A man of both faith and courage who has served his country with distinction as a United States Marine, and since excelled as a leader in our agency, Captain Ruda was honored by his peers as LAFD's "Firefighter of the Year" for 2005.
In 2001, Captain Ruda was one of 100 Los Angeles Fire Department members who traveled at their own expense to New York City to present a check for $2.5 million to the families of Firefighters killed in the World Trade Center attack and its aftermath.
A fitting ambassador for both the common man and America's Fire Service, Captain Ruda will join Former U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, Governor Ed Rendell, U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster, General Tommy Franks and Hamilton Peterson, son of passengers Donald and Jean Peterson and president of the Families of Flight 93 to speak at the public ceremony.
The story of Flight 93 will remain a national treasure — a story of hope in human courage and cooperation that inspires every American, including our nation's Firefighters. We hope that you will join us in giving generously to the completion of the Flight 93 National Memorial.
(video of Captain Ruda departing Los Angeles)
Submitted by Brian Humphrey, Spokesman
Los Angeles Fire Department
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