Salisbury Fire honors first responders’ sacrifice during 20th anniversary of 9/11

Published 12:05 am Sunday, September 12, 2021

By Natalie Anderson

SALISBURY — The Salisbury Fire Department gathered Saturday to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks and focus on the hundreds of first responders who lost their lives from the tragedy.

The remembrance ceremony took place at the Salisbury/Rowan Firefighter Memorial on South Main Street. At 8:50 a.m., firefighters rang a bell to commemorate Flight 11, the American Airlines plane that crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center at 8:46 a.m. on Sept. 11, 2001. At 9:03 a.m., a second bell was for United Flight 175, which crashed into the South Tower. Another bell noted American Airlines Flight 77’s crash into the Pentagon at 9:37 a.m. A bell at 10:03 a.m. commemorated United Airlines Flight 93 crashing into a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

At 9:59 a.m. on Sept. 11, 2001, the South Tower collapsed.

Of the 2,997 victims who were killed in the Sept. 11 attack, more than 400 were first responders.

“Buildings can and will be rebuilt, but the lives of the heroes, the lives of the innocent — those are just so tragic,” said Fire Chief Bob Parnell. “I respectfully request that today be a day of reverence, a day of quiet reflection. If you’re so moved, a day of prayer. To remember all of our losses.”

Members of the honor guard lowered the American flag to half-staff and completed a special 5/5/5 bell ringing, which pays tribute to firefighters who have died in the line of duty. The five rings represent the special signal sent out via telegraph. Most of the ceremony was quiet, allowing time for reflection and prayer.

Rev. Mark Conforti recited a roll call of the names of 12 fallen firefighters and two law enforcement officers from Salisbury who have died. Those include:

• Joyce Caldwell, West Rowan Fire Department

• Gary Weaver, West Rowan Fire Department

• Gary Barringer, Rockwell Rural Fire Department

• Ray Choat, Rockwell Rural Fire Department and Gold Hill Fire Department

• Tony Trexler, Gold Hill Fire Department

• Rick Barnhardt, Kannapolis Fire Department

• Joe Alfano, Atwell Fire Department

• Andrew Bley, Atwell Fire Department

• James Rector, Locke Fire Department

• Mike Nesbit, Locke Fire Department

• Paul Shrewsbury, Locke Fire Department

• Larry Craver, Salisbury Fire Department

• Shane Karriker, Salisbury Police Department

• Mike Brady, Rowan County Sheriff’s Department

“And now that our brothers and sisters have completed their tasks, their duties well done, the bell rings five times in memory and tribute to their lives and service,” Conforti said.

Capt. Brantley Shanks played “Taps” to honor the fallen law enforcement officers.

“As we remember those who passed on this past year, we think of their service and we’re thankful for it,” Conforti said.

He then recited John 15:13, which states, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

Also at the memorial, the Salisbury Fire Department featured its steel beam from one of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. The beam, received in 2011 after a trip to John F. Kennedy International Airport, measures 8 feet.

Contact reporter Natalie Anderson at 704-797-4246.

About Natalie Anderson

Natalie Anderson covers the city of Salisbury, politics and more for the Salisbury Post. She joined the staff in January 2020 after graduating from Louisiana State University, where she was editor of The Reveille newspaper. Email her at or call her at 704-797-4246.

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