By Yadira Betances
---- — LAWRENCE — Yesterday was filled with joy and sorrow for Andy Jimenez.
The father of fallen Staff Sgt. Alex R. Jimenez was elated that the bridge at the corner of Marston and Canal streets was dedicated to his son, who was killed six years ago in Iraq at age 25. At the same time, the dedication brought back agonizing memories from the 14 months he spent not knowing whether his son was dead or alive.
“It was hard to control my emotions,” said Andy Jimenez of Lawrence as he cried.
Alex Jimenez went missing in action on May 12, 2007, when he was captured by terrorists in an ambush west of Mahmudiyah, Iraq. Spc. Byron Fouty of Waterford, Mich., and Pfc. Joseph Anzack Jr. of Torrance, Calif., also were captured. Anzack’s body was later recovered from the Euphrates River. The remains of Jimenez and Fouty were recovered July 8, 2008, west of Jurf As Sukhr in Iraq.
In his invocation, the Rev. Joel Almono, pastor at Grace Episcopal Church in Lawrence, asked blessings for Jimenez, his family and all those who cross the bridge.
Jaime Melendez, director of Veterans’ Services, led the ceremony. Mayor William Lantigua and City Council president and State Rep. Frank Moran also spoke. Jimenez’ family did not speak publicly during the ceremony.
Moran was the one who brought the idea to the council after he was approached by several veterans. The City Council voted unanimously on Sept. 19 to name the bridge for Jimenez.
Jimenez’ older brother, Andy Javier Jimenez flew in from Ocala, Fla. for the ceremony. Also, 14 members of the family, including Jimenez’s mother, Maria Duran, drove in from New York.
“As people spoke, I was thinking of how sad I feel daily over losing him and how proud I am for the service he did for this country,” Maria Duran said afterward. “This is a wound that will never heal.”
Andy Javier Jimenez said he was glad he came for the ceremony.
“It’s an honor to be here and to know that our name is going to live forever on this bridge,” he said.
Police Sgt. Michael Simard, a veteran of the Air Force, said the dedication was “a great day for the city.”
“He is a true American, who made the ultimate sacrifice, and I hope everyone always remembers that,” Simard said.
The bridge is the second public space named after Jimenez. The playstead on Lawrence Street where Jimenez played baseball now bears his name.