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    Sunday, March 24, 2019-7:18:15A.M.






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NMI commemorates 9-11, honors first responders

“9-11 changed the world forever. It was a turning point for our nation in terms of how we view terrorism. It was also a time when our entire country was galvanized by patriotism and heroism,” said Claudine Atalig, American Red Cross-NMI chapter volunteer, one of the 12 Saipan residents deployed to “ground zero” in New York, New Jersey, and the Pentagon following the 9-11 terror attacks.

  Atalig said Red Cross volunteers “support our first responders and those affected by all disasters including 9-11.”

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Community members, including Saipan Mayor David Apatang, join CNMI first responders in the freedom walk  as part of  3rd Annual Field of Heroes/Sept. 11 commemoration on Wednesday.  Photo by Bryan Manabat

She said she was stationed at one of the massive assistance centers.

 “I will never forget one phone call I received. It was from one of the husbands of the flight attendants who perished. He did not want any assistance; he just wanted someone to talk with. He said his wife called him that day during her flight which she rarely did. He said their conversation was about ordinary things so he did not think anything of it, just that she called during her flight.”

 Atalig said she stayed with him on the line for 30 to 45 minutes.

She said the odd thing about the conversation was that the person who lost his wife seemed to “have it all together” while she was the one who felt devastated.

 “They had a little girl who was 4 years old then, and I broke down because I had a daughter who was 5 years old at the time. I felt lost for the little girl but yet blessed and relieved that she had a father who remained strong amid all the turmoil.”

 Atalig was the guest speaker for the 3rd Annual Field of Heroes/Sept. 11 commemoration held at  American Memorial Park on Wednesday.

 The event was originally set for Sept. 9-17 on Saipan but it was rescheduled because of Typhoon Mangkhut.

Organized by the Tan Siu Lin Foundation and Tan Holdings, the event started with a freedom walk from Garapan Fishing Base to American Memorial Park.

The freedom walk  honored local community heroes: military personnel, veterans, emergency responders, firefighters and law enforcers.

 Net proceeds from the event will be donated to the Northern Marianas Humanities Council which provides support for servicemembers and veterans who have post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD.

At American Memorial Park, National Park Service Superintendent Barbara Alberti said:

“As we look at the field of flags, they remind us that first responders are not only the soldiers who fight for our freedom, but also the firefighters, the police officers,  the emergency medical technicians, homeland security, K-9 units…so many others who make our community safe.

 “You are on the frontline when an emergency strikes and help is needed. We all rely on your vigilance and sacrifices, and your constant commitment to serve our community every day of every year. On this day, we are here to say ‘Thank you.’ ”

 Tan Holdings president Jerry Tan said: “We’re happy to be the presenting sponsor, but this is really a community event and we are very, very proud to be part of it.  We should say thank you to our first responders on a daily basis. First responders keep us safe. Every day they wake up in the morning and report for work that makes  the community and every one of us safe.”

 Pastor Frederick Tautala Fatiolofa, Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Services chaplain, led the invocation and benediction.

 The Department of Public Safety and CPA ports police fired a 21-gun salute while the closing remarks were made by Farah Younis, Northern Marianas Humanities Council program officer

 The 2018 Field of Heroes Presenting Sponsors were Tan Holdings and the Tan Siu Lin Foundation; Field Sponsors — National Park Service/American Memorial Park, Tinian Mayor’s Office, Rota Mayor’s Office; Heritage Sponsors — IT&E, Sorensen Media Group/Power 99; Stars & Stripes Sponsors — E-Land Group, Marianas Variety, J.C. Tenorio Enterprises Inc., Hyatt Regency Saipan, Hotel Valentino, Saipan Mayor’s Office, TakeCare; Patron Sponsors — Bank of Hawaii, First Hawaiian Bank, Docomo Pacific, Express Financial, GPPC, J.C.A. Inc. dba McDonald’s of Saipan, Marpac, Shirley’s Coffee Shop and Triple J Saipan Inc.