Public safety ‘first responders’ honored in Gateway

Find out how – and why – this group gathers to honor front-line public safety personnel each September …

The jumbo United States flag that flies above 111th Square, welcoming folks to the event, can be seen for miles.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
For the last few years, members of the Gateway Area Business Association (GABA) have taken advantage of summery September weather to gather out-of-doors at Realty Broker’s 111th Square on NE Halsey Street.

Because their monthly meeting falls near the middle of September, GABA members and guests take the opportunity to reflect on events of 9/11, now eight years past, in New York City. But, instead of dwelling on that terrorist attack, the group focuses its attention on the men and women who today help protect the citizens of Portland.

Host Fred Sanchez, of Realty Brokers, welcomes guests, and conducts a trivia contest about past GABA leaders and honorees.

Portland American Legion Post #1 (The Service Post), led by Frank Bauer, serves as the event’s Color Guard.

GABA’s current president, AJ Prasad with Columbia State Bank, took the microphone and invited, “Please join around the flag, as we welcome our first responders from the Portland Police Bureau, Portland Fire & Rescue, and the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office, for our flag ceremony.”

Members of Portland Veterans of Foreign Wars’ Post 4248 provide a 21-gun salute in honor of fallen first responders, both those present, and those who served during the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington DC.

Describing the significance of each fold, members of Portland American Legion Post #1 execute the flag folding ceremony.

Patricia Labat sings “The Star Spangled Banner” and leads a group-sing of “America the Beautiful”.

After “The Star-Spangled Banner”, Patricia Labat, who is with The Music Garden, shared thoughts about the terrorist attacks on 9/11 in prose she had written. “Trying with their all their might, all those selfless arms, sleeves rolled up, soot covering weary bodies / Moving forward with every ounce of adrenaline possible, to accomplish a mission / We know their dedication to our community has not diminished with the passing of time from that frightful 9/11 day / Ready to respond late night and day, to perform similar tasks in our very own community.”

Our own local first responders, she continued, are still rolling up their sleeves, ready to dig, ready to lift, ready to carry, ready to protect. “They function around the clock, and are involved in many compromising situations we are never made aware of. To them the mission is the same as it was eight years ago. It’s just a different day, a different task.  The Gateway Area Business Association, and our entire association of neighbors applaud you – the police, fire bureaus, and emergency medical teams – and all others who step up to the scene and place themselves in the mission of the moment. Your courage, dedication, and selfless service to our community do not go unnoticed, unappreciated, or forgotten.  We thank you from the bottom of our hearts for all that you do.”

Labat asked the group to join with her in singing “America the Beautiful” as a tribute to the first responders.

GABA board member David Panichello, of Opti-Con, welcomes guests to the luncheon.

Portland City Commissioner Dan Saltzman is welcomed to the event by Fred Sanchez.

“I’m really glad to be here as you honor our first responders, and remember 9/11,” said Portland City Commissioner Dan Saltzman.

“An event like this helps me to remember exactly what we expect of people on the front lines of public safety – our first responders,” noted Saltzman. “When a tragedy occurs, these dedicated men and women rush the direction of the disaster, not away from it. They save lives and protect property. I’m very honored to be Portland’s Police Commissioner.”

Portland City Commissioner Amanda Fritz stands with this Portland Fire & Rescue contingent, which represents all of the men and women of their bureau.

Commissioner Fritz provides award certificates to deputies and command staff of the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office, including outgoing Sheriff Bob Skipper (far right in photo).

Standing with representatives from his officers and command staff, Portland Police Bureau East Precinct Commander Michael Crebs says they’re all proud to serve outer East Portland citizens.

Portland City Commissioner Amanda Fritz also thanked the first responders. “I have the privilege of being the commissioner in charge of the Bureau of Emergency Communications, the 9-1-1 Center. They are truly the very first responders.  They take the call, stay on the line, and dispatch the right responders needed at the situation.”

Fritz said she was pleased at how well the 9-1-1 Center works with the other public safety services bureaus. “From emergency communications, to police, fire, and medical personnel, when an emergency situation arises, I know they’ll all be pulling together.”

AJ Prasad, Columbia State Bank, holds the awards plaque, while US Senator Jeff Merkley’s Portland assistant, Claire Griffin, accepts the “Citizen of the Year” award for the Senator. Committee members Barbara Rommel, Superintendent of David Douglas School District; Annette Mattson, with Portland General Electric, Dr. Karen Fisher Gray, Superintendent of Parkrose School District; and Portland Police East Precinct Commander Michael Crebs all listen, as Fred Sanchez talks about the award.

To finish up the event, Fred Sanchez talked about the GABA Citizen of the Year award. He noted that, this year, it was presented to US Senator Jeff Merkley. “It’s a tradition we started eight years ago. The award is given as a result of service to the community.”

Meet the GABA members on October 8
Networking at the Gateway Area Business Association starts 11:30 a.m. This month, Hannah Martine from Wholesale Printing USA and The Free Bee will give her presentation, “Three Critical Steps to Effective Networking” and provide examples and a template.

You’ll find them at the Parkview Christian Retirement Homes (formerly Oregon Baptist Retirement Homes), 1825 NE 108th Avenue (just north of NE Weidler Street, in their Community Room just west from where NE Schuler Street dead-ends into 108th Avenue, on October 8. Loaves and Fishes provides lunch for a suggested donation of at least $6.00 per person. For more information, see to

Mike Vander Veen, East Portland Neighborhood Organization talks with Portland City Commissioner Amanda Fritz at GABA’s September event.

© 2009 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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