Walk will honor the memory of victims of 9/11
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By Rod Ohira
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Rod Ohira
City officials plan to honor the memory of the thousands who perished in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and recognize the daily efforts of its first-responder police, fire and emergency medical workers Sunday with an early evening walk followed by a brief ceremony at Honolulu Hale.
"We plan this walk to be a solemn, nonpartisan, nonpolitical observance of the day that changed America," Mayor Mufi Hannemann said in a written statement. "No matter what people might feel about events that transpired since then, the walk is meant to remember the losses we suffered and the heroism we summoned that day."
The "Honolulu Remembers ... Never Forget" freedom walk is open to the public. It starts at 6:30 p.m. from the main entrance to the Honolulu Police Department at 801 S. Beretania St. City officials plan to make the remembrance walk an annual event, Hannemann said.
The terrorist hijacking of four airliners five years ago changed the profile and duties of first responders.
Honolulu Police Chief Boisse Correa, Fire Chief Kenneth Silva and Emergency Medical Services Chief Patricia "Patty" Dukes are overseeing the transformation of Honolulu's first responders to include broader duties. Among other things, responders now undergo training to deal with chemical, radiological, biological and nuclear threats.
"We continue to do traditional police work, but we're very diligent and cognizant of terrorism," Correa said. "It's only a matter of time before some jurisdiction in the United States is going to become a victim of terrorism. Eventually, something will happen."
Crisis and consequence management are key components built into Honolulu's multi-agency response system that Correa describes as "very high on the totem pole, if not one of the best in the United States."
One of the biggest improvements since Sept. 11 has been the communication between state, county, federal, military and the private sector, said Correa. "The difference is night and day," the police chief said. "I think we all realize no one can do it alone. Everything has to work in synch. ... It's better, but we're not there yet."
Repetitive drills have improved crisis-management scenarios, for example, in which fire, police and the state Health Department know their initial field-response leadership roles. The Health Department would take the lead in chemical or virus situations, fire if a dirty bomb has been detonated, and police if the bomb has not detonated, Correa said citing field-leadership examples.
"There's no longer an ego thing, fighting over turf," he said.
First-responder training today is longer and more comprehensive, said Silva.
"My recruit training 25 years ago lasted three months," he said. "Now it's eight to nine months."
He added: "For our people to be successful in the jobs they do, training has become one of our biggest challenges. We're living in a different age, dealing with threats we never imagined before but are reality now."
Dukes, along with Correa and Silva, has been attending regular weapons-of-mass-destruction training on the Mainland.
She recently returned from a class in New Mexico on prevention and response to suicide bombings.
Reach Rod Ohira at email@example.com.