The Clinton Township community gathered the morning of Sept. 11 at Resurrection Cemetery for the annual Patriot Day ceremony. It helped mark the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

The Clinton Township community gathered the morning of Sept. 11 at Resurrection Cemetery for the annual Patriot Day ceremony. It helped mark the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Photo by Deb Jacques


Clinton Township hosts 20th anniversary Patriot Day ceremony

By: Alex Szwarc | Fraser - Clinton Township Chronicle | Published September 22, 2021

 Retired Washington Township Fire Chief Dan Last spent 17 days at ground zero after 9/11, providing medical care for first responders. He was one of the ceremony’s featured speakers.

Retired Washington Township Fire Chief Dan Last spent 17 days at ground zero after 9/11, providing medical care for first responders. He was one of the ceremony’s featured speakers.

Photo by Deb Jacques

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CLINTON TOWNSHIP — He spent 17 days at ground zero after 9/11, providing medical care for first responders.

Dan Last called those days ones he will never forget and a time that had a profound effect on his life.

Last was one of the featured speakers Sept. 11 at Clinton Township’s annual Patriot Day memorial service. The ceremony took place at the Veterans Memorial at Resurrection Cemetery in Clinton Township.

Last is a retired Washington Township fire chief who said that, on the morning of 9/11, he knew he would be activated to respond to New York City.

At ground zero, Last was part of the Michigan Disaster Medical Assistance Team. His job was safety officer, ensuring that team members didn’t become patients.

“We were positioned at three locations around ground zero,” Last said. “Two tents and the storefront of a butcher shop. We provided medical care for first responders that were doing search and rescue on the collapsed towers.”

He said the medical unit, which operated 24 hours a day, treated everything from smoke inhalation and debris in the eyes, to broken bones and cuts and bruises.

“My responsibilities included making sure everyone was wearing a respirator when working in the hazardous zone,” Last said.   

When given a hard hat, members were told to write their last name and position on the team. As safety officer and with the last name Last, he inscribed the words “safety Last,” a phrase which became a conversation piece over time.

Last said a temporary morgue was set up in the butcher shop, the first stop for all remains located at the site.

“Any time remains of a firefighter or police officer were recovered, they were covered with an American flag, and all stood at attention as the remains passed by on the way to the morgue,” he said.

Two points that stand out to Last from his time at ground zero are the smell of death and Lee Greenwood’s song “God Bless the U.S.A.”

He wrapped his comments up noting that it’s time for “America to get back to one nation,” the way it was soon after 9/11.

“Not Democrats versus Republicans or liberals versus conservatives,” Last said, “but as one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

The other featured speaker was Clinton Township Police Officer Nicholas Stirrett.

On 9/11, Stirrett was 22. He was in the Army on active duty, assigned in Europe.

“I turned on the TV in time to see the south tower struck,” he said. “Like most of you, I had a crazy range of emotions, because I was watching replays of the initial tower.”  

Stirrett has been with the department for five years and serves in the K-9 unit.

After 9/11, he was assigned to a military police unit at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, New York.

“It was a hard pill to swallow, getting assigned to a garrison environment when your comrades are going to take it to the enemy,” Stirrett said.

He noted that he and his wife, who was also in the Army, had the duty of providing a full honor service funeral for the first U.S. Military Academy cadet who graduated and then was killed in the war on terror.

Stirrett later served 18 months in Iraq, participating in Operation Iraqi Freedom, where he was awarded the Bronze Star Medal.  

Clinton Township Supervisor Bob Cannon said the anniversary marks the time from when Clinton Township joined the rest of the world in knowing terror and terrorists at a higher level than ever before.

“If we’ve learned anything over the past 20 years, it is that unwavering compassion and innate goodness of our nation will prevail over evil and darkness,” he said. “The one lesson that should not be lost on us now more than ever is how our nation was unified from the moment of impact.”  

Clinton Township’s Civic Center campus was the site of the first ceremony to honor the lives of those lost just three days after the attacks in 2001.

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