Fire damages 9/11 display of American flags at Menlo Park fire district station


Someone set fire to and partially burned a display of 343 American flags set out at a local fire station on Sunday, Sept. 11, to honor the 343 firefighters who died in responding to the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York City on September 11, 2001.

Firefighters discovered the arson at the East Palo Alto fire station after returning from a call, according to Fire Chief Harold Schapelhouman of the Menlo Park Fire Protection District in a statement.

The damage was minor -- six flags burned and several others were damaged, all of which were replaced, the chief said. East Palo Alto police are investigating in cooperation with the district fire marshal. Investigators are in possession of a video and have "a suspect of interest," the chief said.

Sunday was the 15th anniversary of the terrorist attack. Setting out flags to honor the fallen New York City firefighters has been a tradition in the Menlo Park fire distrct that started with one fire station and grew to include all seven.

Originally, the flags lined the borders of lawns at the stations, but with the lawns replaced with drought-resistant landscaping and/or artificial grass, firefighters transferred the flags to trays crafted by the firefighters themselves "to keep this important tradition alive," the chief said.

Firefighters from the Menlo Park district traveled to New York and participated in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, the chief said. Two local veterans of 9/11 -- Captain John Wurdinger and Battalion Chief Ben Marra -- responded to the scene on Sunday after learning of the incident, the chief said.

Firefighters around the country remember the attacks, and the loss of 343 firefighters in a single day "isn't lost on any of them," the chief said. "Honor, Duty, Service, Compassion and Sacrifice are part of a code that all firefighters believe in. Running towards an emergency is part of a culture that puts service before self and the bonds of the fire family run deep with a common respect for the 'job,' although most would admit it's a calling, and spend a career perfecting their craft."

"I don't get angry easily," Chief Schapelhouman said, "but knowing that someone tried to burn not only our flag memorial, but a specific tribute to 343 heroic fallen brothers, some of whom I personally knew, worked with and helped to look for at Ground Zero, and that this occurred here on the actual 15th anniversary date of this event, it's a despicable act of disrespect and cowardice, its truly hard for me to comprehend, accept and I need to stop myself there because I don't want you to know what I'm thinking right now."

The chief commended the residents of East Palo Alto, who have "always treated (firefighters) with respect because true to our code of conduct and values that are exactly the same today, we are always there to help anyone in need, that has never changed and won't change because of one person's stupidity and disrespect."


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18 people like this
Posted by sro
a resident of Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Sep 13, 2016 at 12:30 pm

why doesn't the headline directly say that arson was responsible for burning the American flags??

7 people like this
Posted by Tricia
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Sep 13, 2016 at 5:21 pm

Now THAT'S. Deplorable !!!!!!!

5 people like this
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 13, 2016 at 6:58 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

"why doesn't the headline directly say that arson was responsible for burning the American flags??"

Because it's in the body of the story? God forbid we should read beyond the headlines and actually be INFORMED.

18 people like this
Posted by Bob
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 13, 2016 at 8:41 pm

So much for respecting the flag and the people who work daily to keep our county free and safe not to mention the honor our Menlo firefighters are showing for their fallen comrades who gave their lives on 9/11 -- 343 firefighters.

This is just vandalism pure and simple and not acceptable.

2 people like this
Posted by Jon Castor
a resident of Woodside: Woodside Heights
on Sep 14, 2016 at 4:38 pm

Jon Castor is a registered user.

A despicable act. Glad to read there is video and a suspect.

21 people like this
Posted by Menlo Observer
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 16, 2016 at 6:31 pm

Most American citizens honor our flag. However, there is a small cadre of misguided leftists and far-right malcontents who feel that the American flag is a symbol of oppression rather than being the symbol of liberty and freedom throughout the world that it actually is. It is this small group of people who have no compunction about desecrating our great flag. I feel sorry for them because they don't seem to realize how wonderful it is to live in the greatest country in the world and how much we take our good fortune for granted.

Yes life can be a struggle at times but there is no other country in this world that offers the opportunities and freedoms as does the United States. And when you look at our military, police and fire departments who selflessly lay down their lives so that we may be free and safe, we have to pause and reflect and how truly fortunate we are.

God Bless America and may God forgive these poor misguided souls who don't appreciate the sacrifices our great military, fire fighters and police officers make on our behalf.

6 people like this
Posted by pearl
a resident of another community
on Sep 16, 2016 at 7:12 pm

pearl is a registered user.

Thank you, Menlo Observer, totally agree with you. It's unfortunate the consuming public has no idea the sacrifices our first responders, and their families, make for us so we can live in peace and freedom.

Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Atherton: West of Alameda

on Sep 27, 2017 at 7:47 pm

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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