Bob Rietveld has never been in the military or worked as a first responder, but the respect he has for them transcends all borders.
That’s why on each anniversary of the Sept, 11 terrorist attacks in 2001 in New York City he has found some way of remembering the more than 400 people who died trying to help others.
The 343 firefighters and 72 law enforcement officials was the single largest loss of life for those first responders in United States history.
“When we heard about 9/11 I was living in Vancouver and some of us got together and decided we had to do something every year so it doesn’t get forgotten,” said Rietveld, who moved to Penticton three years ago after retiring from the construction business. “Let’s face it 9/11 changed the world, changed how we live, changed how we travel, it changed all our freedoms, it was an attack on our entire system.
“That one was about as colossal as you can get. It almost bordered on Pearl Harbor.”
As a member of the B.C. Provincial Command colour guard, each year he took part in the international remembrance ceremony with Canadian and American first responders at the Douglas Border Crossing. An event that has attracted thousands of people.
The convoy would travel through Richmond along Highway 99 to the border where they would meet up with the Americans and take part in a service there.
So this year, as part of his remembrance of the event, he stopped by the No. 1 Hall of the Penticton Fire Department Wednesday.
Driving his bright yellow Hummer with its Canadian and American flags and decals recognizing veterans, he brought along a special item.
It is an American “flag of honour” his daughter brought back from New York in 2010 that has, in alphabetical order, the names of all who died in the attack.
That flag has been attached to the front of the Hummer during the ceremonies since then.
The vehicle is familiar to many people as it was the lead in both the Peach City Beach Cruise and Peach Festival parades this summer.
“And so now, because I can’t march any more, I put the Hummer in all the parades and try my best to put veterans in it,” said Rietveld, who credits Canadian forces with liberating Holland where he was born at the end of the Second World War. “I was born weighing only four pounds, no food in Europe and they (Canadians) marched in and saved the country and saved me.”
According to deputy fire chief Chris Forster, his stopping by the department was not lost on the members who were there.
“First responders, police, fire, EMS (ambulance) military really at the end of the day we consider ourselves one big family,” said Forster, who was in Kelowna that day for a memorial stair climb. “And certainly when you have people that come and continue on the memories of the importance of all the duties that does impact you.
“When someone actually takes the time to stop by and make mention of the importance of what we do and also provide how they were involved it actually does mean a lot. We don’t expect it, that’s our job, but it is appreciated and that makes them feel really good about what they do.”