Sixteen years ago, more than 400 first responders lost their lives trying to save others during the terror attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
“It was one of the most abysmal day in American history. If not for the heroic efforts of hundreds of first responders that day, many more would have perished,” said Bill Bolde, former principal of Saugus High School.
In honor of the sacrifices made by hundreds of men and women more than a decade ago, Saugus High School unveiled its second wall of honor Monday to recognize Saugus graduates who have gone on to serve as first responders throughout the United States.
“Today we gather to recognize these heroes who, through their bravery and their dedication, put their lives on the line every single day,” said Bolde, who worked with seniors Jacinda Molina and Madison Hollers on the project before his retirement this spring.
Bolde, Molina and Hollers began their work on the project nearly a year ago. Both Molina and Hollers organized the effort to manage, design and fundraise for the wall as part of their Girl Scout Gold Award Projects.
“For my passion project I chose to create a wall for first responders inspired by my own father who works for LAPD,” Molina said. “I come from a line of law enforcement and military so this wall, this whole courtyard, holds a special place in my heart.”
Both students said the project was an effort of passion and pride for them as they not only honored graduates who serve as first responders, but also their own family members and friends.
“It really means a lot to us,” Hollers said. “It’s kind of emotional… I know the hardships that are on my family and things I’ve gone through with having someone leave every day.”
Now, sitting in the school’s Courtyard of Courage, the First Responders Wall of Honor reveres 70 Saugus High School graduates who spent their careers answering emergency calls and saving lives in communities throughout the country.
“It is our hope that this Courtyard of Courage wills serve both as a place of thanks and a place of inspiration as future Centurions will walk through and be inspired to pursue a courageous career as a first responder,” Principal Vince Ferry said.
The First Responders Wall also includes four plaques with bronze inscriptions for those students who lost their lives in the line of duty.
One of these names and special plaques is in honor of 38-year-old Ryan Osler, a 1997 graduate of the school who died in service of his community on Sept. 21, 2016 when he was working as a fire engineer with the Ventura County Fire Department during the Canyon Fire.
The ceremony served as a special dedication to Osler and his family who were in attendance at the Wall of Honor’s unveiling.
“There’s no words that could be said this evening, there’s no memorials, there’s really nothing that that bronze plaque is going to do to bring him back, but I hope this ceremony will serve as some sort of closure to this family,” Bolde said. “They [Osler’s family] continue to embody the bravery and courage that their husband, their son, their brother, their dad gave to his community as a last full measure of devotion.”
In addition to recognizing the Osler family, Ferry thanked School Resource Officer Deputy Tom Drake for his service to the high school and Saugus High School students whose parents currently serve as first responders.
“At Saugus High School we have a large number of students that have parents that are first responders and these students know firsthand the meaning of the word sacrifice and risk,” Ferry said. “To these students, we thank you for your selfless sharing of your parent and we hope you fully understand the profound and positive impact your parent makes each and every day as a first responder.”
Monday’s ceremony also included performances of “Grand Old Flag” and “America the Beautiful” from the Saugus High School Band, led by Director Jay Jarrett, and performances of “God Bless America” and “God Bless the USA” from the Saugus High School Choir, led by Director April Dooley.
As the ceremony concluded, Bolde expressed his hope that all students, staff and community members recognize the sacrifice that first responders make every single day to protect the safety of those around them.
“I want you always to give thanks to the former students whose names are on this wall, 254 on the military wall and 70 that we’re putting up on this wall today,” Bolde said. “Please remember that freedom is never free and we owe our way of life to those who serve and sacrifice so we might enjoy the lives we have in the greatest country on the planet.”
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