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Fallen police and emergency responders honored at Hagerstown's City Park

September 10, 2008|By JOSHUA BOWMAN

HAGERSTOWN -- Despite a pouring rain, more than 100 people attended a ceremony Tuesday afternoon at City Park to honor firefighters, police officers and other emergency workers who have been killed in the line of duty since Sept. 11.

Makeshift tents were set up to keep people dry during the Remembrance in the Park ceremony, which was hosted by the Washington County Citizen Corps, a local branch of a national volunteer organization created after Sept. 11 to help increase homeland security and community safety awareness.

The tents were leaking by the time the ceremony began, but everyone stayed. Many of the people in attendance were firefighters, police officers and emergency services workers.

"As I was leaving to come here and telling some of my people where I was going, they said 'Surely they're not going to do this today'" in the rain, said the Rev. Stephen Robison of Otterbein United Methodist Church. "I said, 'You don't know these people. It's going to take ... more than something like this to keep these people home.'"

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After Smithsburg High School student Katie Gigante sang the national anthem, Washington County Emergency Services Director Kevin L. Lewis started the ceremony by saying that the gathering was more than a remembrance or memorial.

"It is a tribute. A tribute to honor our fallen heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice," Lewis said.

The ceremony included the dedication of two trees at the park's Emergency Services Tribute Garden for former correctional officer Jeffery Alan Wroten and former Smithsburg Police Officer Christopher Shane Nicholson, both of whom were killed while on the job.

Wroten died in January 2006 after he was shot at Washington County Hospital by an inmate he was guarding. Brandon Morris was found guilty in Wroten's death in January.

Nicholson died in December 2007 after being shot while responding to a request for backup from the Washington County Sheriff's Department. Douglas Pryor has been charged in Nicholson's death.

Family members of both men shoveled dirt onto the bases of the English dogwood and Cleveland pear trees that were planted for Wroten and Nicholson.

Afterward, volunteers unveiled the Tribute Garden's Walk of Honor, a row of bricks at the base of the garden's wall. Many of the bricks are etched with the names of companies and individuals who donated money for the garden.

A wreath was placed at the edge of the walkway, "In honor of emergency services personnel of Washington County" by Glenn Fishack, president of the Washington County Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association, and Joseph Kroboth III, Washington County public works director.

Kroboth's father, Joseph Kroboth Jr., a former fire captain for the Volunteer Fire Company of Halfway, was killed in 1998 while performing traffic control at an accident on Interstate 81.

Lewis praised current workers, including volunteers, and stressed that public safety is everyone's responsibility. He highlighted the work of the Citizen Corps, which he said has trained more than 700 county citizens.

"Our combined mission is to keep the community safer and better prepared," Lewis said.

Washington County Commissioners President John F. Barr and Hagerstown Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II presented proclamations during the ceremony declaring September as Emergency Preparedness Month.

After the ceremony, the commissioners unanimously voted to approve $800 from the commissioners' contingency fund to pay for a flagpole at the Tribute Garden.

Lewis said the goal is to install four flagpoles at the garden, one each for military, law enforcement, career firefighters and volunteer firefighters.

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