Mike Tarpley, Sergeant under 1st Airborne – Vietnam, now with the Disabled American Veterans, Chapter 47, put together the September 11th memorial for Big Spring 11 years ago. He said he didn’t know how long it would continue when he started it but stated, “I knew that we needed to honor these men. The public has taken over, but I get the opportunity and privilege to [participate in] it. The people of Big Spring want to see this happen every year and honor these men who did not get to make it home.”
When asked how he felt to see the crowd of people gathered there for the memorial ceremony, Tarpley said, “It really does my heart a lot of good. We have the Gold Start Family sitting in their section sitting over there and they see these people here. After the program is over they’ll come up to me and hug me and say, ‘Mike, thank you. My son is not forgotten,’ then I know that it means a lot and we’ll have to continue it as long as possible.”
Fire Chief of the Howard County Volunteer Fire Department Tommy Sullivan was also in attendance in order to honor the 343 firefighters who lost their lives 16 years ago in the tragic event on September, 11, 2001.
“As firefighters, we don’t look at our own safety. We put everyone else’s above ours. That day, those 343 made the ultimate choice and today we’re here to honor that. I’m proud to be a part of this memorial for my brothers and sisters,” stated Chief Sullivan.
Even though 343 firefighters made the ultimate sacrifice that day w/ their life, there are 411 names that are written in the memorial wall because other firefighters lost their life due to health complications that were a result of the heroic choices they made that day to place the safety of others over themselves.
Chief Sullivan went on to say, “They responded without thinking about their personal well-being. That’s why I’m here today. I had my leg amputated last Wednesday but you couldn’t have kept me away from here for anything.”
Monday’s memorial event was sponsored by the D.V.A., Chapter 47, and the Howard County Volunteer Fire Department.