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Community gathers to honor Rigsby, remember 9/11

County first responders, officials, and citizens gathered at the Community 9/11 Memorial on Slice Road Monday night (Sept. 11), both to mark the 16th anniversary of the attacks on New York and Washington, D.C., and to honor former Lake Monticello firefighter Dakota Rigsby.

Lake Monticello Fire Chief Richie Constantino led the ceremony, which included comments by Fluvanna County Fire Chief Mike Brent, State Senator Mark Peake, Lake Monticello Volunteer Fire Department and Rescue Squad, Inc. President Len Bozza, Board of Supervisors Chairman Mike Sheridan, and others.

Constantino, a former New York City police officer and volunteer firefighter, lost many friends and colleagues at the World Trade Center that day, and he was a driving force behind the establishment of the Fluvanna County memorial dedicated in 2011.

He urged people to remember that the death toll from that day is still rising. While 2,996 people died in the attack, another 1,064 firefighters and police officers have since died from illnesses and cancers believed to stem from exposure to the crash site, and many others remain seriously ill.

With disasters like Hurricanes Harvey and Irma and the wildfires sweeping much of the U.S. west on people’s minds, several of the speakers talked about the ability of Americans to rally to help one another in times of need, just as they had on Sept. 11. “That’s what Americans do,” said Fluvanna County Sheriff Eric Hess.

Outgoing Emergency Services Coordinator Cheryl Elliott spoke on the importance of memorials and memories as markers to help us see where we’ve been and where we’re heading. “Let us not ask ‘why’ questions,” she said. “Let us ask ‘what now’ questions.”

The speakers also paid tribute to Dakota Rigsby, one of seven Navy seamen who died in a collision between the USS Fitzgerald and a Philippine cargo ship off the coast of Japan in June.

“He had an instinctive desire to help his community,” said Constantino.

Rigsby started volunteering with the LMFD at the age of 16 and become a firefighter at 18. Months after his graduation from Fluvanna County High School, he enlisted in the Navy.

County Administrator Steve Nichols, himself a 36-year Navy veteran, asked the audience to remember that families as well as those who enlist bear the burden and sacrifice of service. “Thank you to Dakota Rigsby’s family, and Mr. Rigsby, I salute you,” he said.

Rigsby’s mother and fellow LMVFD volunteer, Shawn Rigsby, laid a wreath at the memorial plaque where her son’s name will be permanently inscribed. The plaque also contains the names of two Lake firefighters killed in the line of duty in 1989.

The event ended with a 21-gun salute and the playing of Taps by members of the local American Legion Post and the striking of the “four fives,” the ringing of a bell in four sets of five strikes, a traditional last farewell to fallen firefighters.