Firefighters gather to remember 9/11 and honor the first responders that died while responding

Published: Sep. 12, 2023 at 4:24 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - A gathering of first responders took place at University Fire Dept. Station 12 on Sept. 11, as local crews took part in a ceremony to remember and honor their fallen brothers and sisters that died 22 years that very day.

The chill of autumn weather added to the somber mood on the morning of Sept. 11, 2023. Firefighters, EMTs and police reflected on the terror attacks on the United States that occurred 22 years ago.

Four commercial planes were hijacked and used to crash into buildings along the east coast of the country, only three of the planes hitting targets. One plane struck the Pentagon killing 184 people and the other two planes struck the Twin Towers, resulting in the death of nearly 3 thousand people, 343 of which were first responders.

“We’re here today to continue a pledge that we made to never forget, the 343 firefighters who gave the ultimate sacrifice and the first responders who also climbed up the towers to save others,” said Cpt. David Mattox, in charge of the University Fire Dept. B platoon.

Those in attendance heard from seasoned firefighters who spoke about the tragedy, their experience and the importance of remembering not only the fallen first responders, but the importance of all first responders in all communities. This included a speech from a retired firefighter from New York who was there on Sept. 11.

“If you see something that no human should see, go get help. talk to somebody. It took me 3 counselors to find the right guy and I finally found the guy that works for me,” said Michael Dugan, a retired captain of the New York City Fire Dept., also called the FDNY. Dugan spoke to those present about his experience as a New York firefighter both during and after Sept. 11, the response they provided, the brothers and sisters he lost during the response, and those that took their lives after the fact. he said that around the country “over 300 hundred [firefighters] a year,” die by suicide.

That’s nearly the same amount that died on Sept. 11, in New York City and nearly the same amount that have died from medical complications caused by the event. Dugan added that the number of responders who will die from cancer or other complications caused by the terrorist attacks is likely to surpass those that died the day of as there are “341″ firefighters that have died from related medical complications.

As part of the ceremony and tradition, a bell was rang three times in sets of five honoring the lives that were lost. The names of the fallen were also called out in order of confirmation, followed by a moment of silence to end the ceremony.

While the ceremony focused on those lost, much of the message was also directed towards the firefighters too young to remember the dark day. The significance of which was not lost on them. “When I hear all of the names that we read off this morning, my heart sinks to my stomach,” said Maila Liebig-Williams, a member of the University Fire Dept. “Knowing that several different departments from the borough came to station 12 today to honor those names, it’s beautiful, it’s glorious.”