For twenty years it has been their custom, Smithers Fire Rescue has raised the American and Canadian Flags on its Ladder 11 fire engine to commemorate their fellow first responders who lost their lives on Sept. 11, 2001, when terrorists flew into the World Trade Centre buildings (known as the Twin Towers) in New York City.
At the time, Ladder 11 was in service in Long Branch, New Jersey, and was one of the trucks that actually responded to the emergency.
“When the plane hit the first tower, everyone (in firehouses from the surrounding areas of New York) were immediately on standby. When the second plane hit the second tower, our truck was sent to “stage” right at the scene (Ground Zero). The guys on that truck saw the towers come down. The memories they have are too emotional, horrible, and personal to share to this day,” says Matt Herzog, who spoke to then Long Branch, New Jersey Fire Chief, Ronald Guidetti about that day and the history of the Smithers truck.
“This truck has a very special history,” said Deputy Fire Chief Kelly Zacharias.
“Following 9/11, the American government made a huge investment in replacing emergency equipment, and the relatively new Ladder 11 was one of the trucks that were replaced,” Zacharias said.
It was picked up originally by Fort St. John in 2005 and then bought by Smithers in 2012.
“We raise the flags every year on September 11th, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., and this year being the 20th anniversary and having a truck that was there that day, it is a solemn day of remembrance,” said Herzog.
Instead of looking at 9/11 as purely a day of death, it was also the greatest rescue mission in the history of the United States. First responders, some who lived and some who died, lead the way for panicked civilians to survive in great numbers when the unthinkable carnage happened on that bright sunny morning.
The 9/11 attacks killed almost 3,000 people and at the time of the terrorist attacks, there were about 18,000 people working in the World Trade Center towers and thousands more working in neighboring buildings. This means that about 25,000 people escaped and lived to see another day.
Honoring the victims of 9/11, not only the murder victims but also their surviving loved ones is an important message to send: We will never forget.
Two thousand, nine hundred and seventy-seven lives were lost that morning. The number includes individuals from 90 nations, 343 firefighters, 71 police officers, and two dozen Canadians.
In an interview with Rolling Stones magazine, actor, writer, and firefighter champion Denis Leary said he believes September 11th was not only the largest U.S. tragedy but also something much more important.
“It wasn’t just the worst attack ever on American soil, it was the single greatest rescue in the history of the fire service,” said Leary.
“343 members of the FDNY gave their lives that day so that easily, another 10 or 15 or 20 thousand people didn’t have to die. It was and will always be one of the greatest displays of bravery in the timeline of all mankind. Those men racing downtown in their rigs, running in, running up. Astonishing souls each and every one of them,” said Leary.
‘To have a direct connection to 9/11 with our truck is remarkable. We keep the painting of the Twin Towers on it, and will as long as we own it,” Zacharias said, “it’s in tribute, and reminds us every day of the sacrifices our brothers and sisters made.”
Although there will not be a ceremony, the public is welcome to stop by at 7 a.m. when the flags are raised on September 11, and throughout the day.
~with files from Thom Barker