As I write this blog, I am wearing a t-shirt from the Los Angeles County Fire Museum. On the back side of the shirt at the top are the words “Patriot Day.” In the center is an image of Squad 51 from the NBC television show Emergency! Below the image is a common mantra we have seen and heard over the past twenty-two years: “Never Forget.”
September 9th, 2001
On September the 9th, my wife and I were returning to LaGuardia Airport in New York City from an anniversary trip where we visited family and friends in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. As we exited the Lincoln Tunnel, I remember looking in awe at the Twin Towers and their amazing height. Little did we know what was going to happen two days later.
September 11th, 2001
September 10th was my first day back to work after taking off a couple of shifts for our anniversary trip. On the morning of the 11th as we were preparing for shift change, the oncoming lieutenant, Vance, called to me from the dayroom and said, “Rick! Come in here! You gotta see what’s going on.”
All of us were gathered around the television watching the horror unfold in New York City. When the second plane hit at 0903 Eastern Daylight Time/0703 Mountain Daylight Time, we all knew what was going on: a terrorist attack.
The drive home
Leaving the fire station, I turned on the radio so I could listen to what was happening back east. Arriving home, my wife had no idea what was occurring. When I turned on the television, we learned that another plane had crashed into the Pentagon. Not long afterwards we heard about the plane crash in Pennsylvania.
The days following September 11th
It wasn’t long before the banner was placed by the statue in front of Loveland Fire Station 2. Citizens began showing up and placed flowers around the base, while offering heartfelt condolences to the duty crews. Why were they offering condolences? Because of the brotherhood and camaraderie that exists with firefighters.
The Fallen Firefighter memorial
The International Association of Firefighters annual Fallen Firefighter memorial was scheduled for Saturday, September 15th in Colorado Springs. Initially, it looked like the event would be cancelled, but the IAFF leadership made the decision to continue.
Arrangements were made to have as many Colorado fire departments as possible come to the memorial. I was one of four Loveland firefighters who participated in this memorable event. We took an engine to the Colorado Fallen Firefighter memorial in Lakewood where we met other rigs from Northern Colorado and the Denver Metro area.
From there a long procession of motorcycles, police cars, and fire apparatus worked our way to I-25 and the trip south to Colorado Springs. I will never forget what it was like. Cars pulled over in both directions on the interstate with people getting out and placing hands over their hearts. Every overpass had firefighters, police officers, medics, and citizens saluting and waving flags. Pulling into Colorado Springs, the streets were lined with citizens waving flags.
Our convoy joined other fire apparatus and police cars from the Colorado Springs area and Southern Colorado. Then we all proceeded to Memorial Park where the IAFF Fallen Firefighter Memorial is located.
I will never forget the sight of one lady and her two little girls as we passed by. The lady was openly weeping and holding the hands of her daughters. Both little girls were waving American flags. In the thirty-seven years of my life dedicated to the fire service, that is one of the most touching memories I have.
Twenty-two years have passed, and our country has changed, and the change has not been for the good. I have not forgotten what happened on 9/11 and I never will! What about you?