Acushnet Fire Cancels Nighttime 9/11 Memorial Ceremony Due to EEE
ACUSHNET — With state health officials announcing the discovery of two new human cases of Eastern Equine Encephalitis in Massachusetts last week, more events in the area have been canceled to protect public safety.
In a post to Facebook, Acushnet Fire Chief Kevin Gallagher says he’s officially canceled this year’s ceremony honoring 9/11 victims, saying the decision “was not made lightly.”
“However, this year things are different. We are currently living under a declaration by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health that Acushnet, along with several other communities, is at critical risk due to Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) transmitted by mosquitoes. State officials do not make such declarations without a foundation of fact-based on science. Local governments have been directed to limit outdoor activities during this crisis.
“Our annual ceremony at the 9/11 Memorial is a fire department-sponsored event. As the head of the department, I must use an abundance of caution when inviting people to attend an outside event at this particular time. Accordingly, I am cancelling for this year the type of ceremony the community has come to expect,” wrote Chief Gallagher.
“This decision is not made lightly. I’ve consulted with public health and other town officials. I considered an earlier start time but know that many people are not yet home or available earlier on a weekday. While understanding that some may question this decision, I simply ask that you remember that the current EEE crisis is real and that local people have become infected and have died. To ignore these facts would be a disservice to those we are sworn to protect.”
Gallagher explained in the post that the ceremony began eight years ago when the department dedicated the Acushnet 9/11 Memorial, incorporating steel from the World Trade Center, a piece of the façade from the damaged portion of the Pentagon and a stone from the crash site in Pennsylvania.
He says each year since the original dedication, the department has held an outdoor ceremony regularly attended by dozens of residents.
The Chief says the Department will be coordinating with local churches to have bells ring at 8:46 a.m., the exact time the first plane struck the North Tower on September, 11th.
“At that time firefighters will place a wreath at the memorial and we will lower the flag of the United States of America to half-mast. We welcome people to visit the memorial on September 11th at any time they choose, it is always open. We strongly encourage proper mosquito protection if visiting.
“Changes like this, even on a temporary basis, can create conflict. Obviously that is not our intention. But as public safety officials, we need to make decisions that consider the health and safety of the public. This is one of those times and one of those decisions.”