Ford Museum, Boy Scouts continue 9/11 tradition with legal community assistance



by Cynthia Price
Legal News

The two entities that spearhead Grand Rapids’ annual September 11 commemoration have a name, and a tradition of service, in common: Gerald R. Ford.

Every year since 2002, the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation and Museum has joined the Gerald R. Ford Council of the Boy Scouts of America to host a Community Day of Remembrance at the Museum. While a centerpiece each year has been a sunrise-to-sundown salute of the United States flag, exhibits and ways of honoring those who died that day have varied.

This year members of the legal community participated heavily, as keynote speakers for both a flag-raising ceremony the night before, and for the noon “Ceremony to honor Police, Fire, EMS and Military members.”

In the late afternoon of Sept. 10, various fire and police personnel, the Boy Scouts, the Patriot Guard, the Rolling Thunder motorcycle group and  the Wounded Warriors escorted the dedicated salute flag from the Belmont Armory to the Ford Museum, with a roll-through at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans.

Accompanying the flag were a rescue vehicle used following the attacks on loan from the Henry Ford Museum; and an exhibit called 9/11: A Day that Changed America, from the 9/11 Memorial Museum. The exhibit included original photos by Roberto Rabanne, Michael Garcia, and Jeannette Flamm  from all three 9/11 sites: the World Trade Center Twin Towers in New York City; the Pentagon; and the site in Shanksville, Pa., where passengers forced down a flight and foiled an intended attack.

Following the raising of the flag by an honor guard, Retired Brigadier General Michael McDaniel — a former JAG Corps member, former  Deputy Assistant Secretary for Homeland Defense Strategy, Prevention and Mission Assurance, and now a professor at Western Michigan University-Cooley Law School — gave remarks.

“Serving our country has changed in recent years. Anyone wearing a uniform to protect and serve their community is now a target,” he said. “Today it’s not only our military members being targeted by terrorists, it’s anyone in uniform. These brave individuals, who risk their lives everyday to protect each of us from harm, now face being killed by selfish individuals looking for attention. We truly appreciate and thank all who put their lives on the line to protect each and every one of us.”
While the day’s focus is on such first responders, since it was they who lost their lives helping others in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks on the Twin Towers, there is also
homage paid to the sacrifices of military personnel.

In addition to honoring and remembering, the event aims to educate. “Each year the Community Day of Remembrance and Scout Salute are commemorated here in Grand Rapids so children and their families have the opportunity to learn about the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001,” said Joe Calvaruso, Executive Director of the Gerald R. Ford Museum, who was present last Friday, in a prepared statement.

In fact, one of the activities of New York City’s 9/11 Memorial Museum is the Ambassador Program, which teaches students in grades 10-12, after their school day, about the Museum’s collection and the themes and issues raised by 9/11. The ambassadors create, plan, and lead a tour for their friends and family members, as well as help with workshops for young visitors and participating in virtual field trips.

The 9/11 Museum itself, which opened in the spring of 2014 and includes two waterfall-surrounded reflecting pools built into the foundations of the World Trade Center towers, is an attempt to keep the memory of the day’s tragedies fresh, especially for those not born at the time or too young to remember.

After the scout salute began at 7:18 a.m. last Friday, bells were rung for  the towers, the Pentagon and United Airlines Flight 93 (the Pennsylvania flight); Mayor George Heartwell spoke briefly.

All day, volunteers and visitors were invited to place flags on the hill near the Ford Museum, eventually resulting in one flag placed for each of the 2966 (number varies) victims and first responders who died as a result of the 9/11 attacks.

At noon, James Robert Redford,  General Counsel to Governor Rick Snyder, led a ceremony honoring the dead and thanking those who continue to serve. Introduced by Matt Hogg of the Gerald R. Ford Council of the Boy Scouts of America, former Kent County Circuit Judge Redford recognized residents of the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans who came out for the salute along with about 50 law enforcement personnel and members of the general public.

“There are 1.46 million who wear the cloth of our nation. They stand the watch for each of us,” Redford said. “And there are approximately 900,000 police officers and 1,140,00 fire fighters — 786,00 are volunteers. Every day these first responders protect and serve, and in doing so they risk their lives.

“I challenge each of us to walk up to one of these officers and say thank you.”

Remarking on the resilience of the U.S. after the attacks, he noted that the first responders on 9/11 “stand in the line of brave patriots that started before Sept. 11, 2001, and will continue as long as we are a people.”

Lt. Gov. Brian Calley was the keynote speaker for the closing ceremony.