Vancouver Freedom Walk draws crowd to remember 9/11

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About 150 people marched in the Vancouver, Wa Freedom Walk in memory of the 9/11 attacks. The event was one of 100 nationwide organized by Operation Homefront, a nonprofit that provides emergency financial assistance to military families, service members and wounded veterans.

About 150 people gathered Sunday morning in Vancouver for the first Freedom Walk in memory of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

The walk, one of 100 nationwide organized by the nonprofit Operation Homefront, started at Grand Central Fred Meyer in Vancouver and ended at the Fort Vancouver Barracks.

A small ceremony preceded the walk at 10 a.m., starting with a presentation of the flag by the American Veterans Honor Guard. City Councilor Jeanne Stewart spoke briefly during the ceremony, asking residents to always remember the attacks on 9/11.

“Our country was threatened, our families and homes were threatened,” Stewart said. “We need to be ever vigilant … for our democracy and move forward with commitment and duty to our country.”

The 790th Chemical Company of the Army National Guard then led the long line of walkers in bright blue T-shirts out of the Fred Meyer parking lot to Waterfront Park. They marched over the Land Bridge and into the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site.

The Freedom Walk marked the first time Camas resident Rick Houston’s family participated in a 9/11 memorial event, he said. The 10th anniversary is a time for the country to come together and remember those who lost their lives, he said.

“It’s one of those times when people ask, ‘What can I do?’ ” Houston said. “You can’t always fly to New York and go to Ground Zero. This is just as good.”

Elizabeth Triplett, also of Camas, said it was her first time at an anniversary event. She came with family and friends in order to connect with others across the country observing the anniversary, she said.

“It’s an opportunity for families to come together, to take part in something larger,” Triplett said. “You feel like you’re contributing.”

Event organizer Wes Forgey, the Southwest Regional Coordinator for the Washington Chapter of Operation Homefront, was pleased with the number of families that turned out for the event. He hopes the Freedom Walk will become an annual event and has already secured support from Fred Meyer to hold it there again next year, he said.

“It’s important to teach kids about the events of that day,” Forgey said.