Sept. 11 memorial set on fire in East Palo Alto

A memorial set up outside an East Palo Alto fire station for the 15th anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001 was vandalized, firefighters discovered Sunday after returning from an emergency call.

The memorial — a tradition within the Menlo Park Fire Protection District since the first anniversary of the terrorist attacks in New York City, Washington and Pennsylvania — had been set on fire in front of Station 2 at 2290 University Ave. in East Palo Alto, according to fire officials.

The district provides emergency services to East Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Atherton and portions of unincorporated San Mateo County.

The memorial consisted of 343 small flags representing each firefighter who died while in the line of duty on Sept. 11. The flags were being held in a flag tray, which was built and paid for by the firefighters themselves, fire officials said.

Battalion Chief Ben Marra, a veteran of the response to the World Trade Center in New York, said in a statement:

“Fortunately it’s minor. Given the density of the flags on the pallet it could be much worse, it looks like half a dozen flags were burned with several others damaged.”

The East Palo Alto Police Department has been notified about the incident and is currently reviewing video from the scene, according to fire officials.

Fire Chief Harold Schapelhouman said in a statement:

“I don’t get angry easily, 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.”