They ran INTO the fire: A community remembers the sacrifices made by first responders on 9/11

9/11 memorial
9/11 memorial

It was a sunny September morning in 2001 when America experienced its worst tragedy since Pearl Harbor. 

Two commercial airliners departed Logan International Airport in Boston bound for Los Angeles. On board each plane were five hijackers from al-Qaeda. The terrorists diverted the planes to New York City and slammed them into the North and South towers of the World Trade Center. Within two hours, both towers collapsed and the resulting fires caused a partial or complete collapse of all other buildings in the WTC complex, as well as major damage to ten other large surrounding structures.

A third plane, American Airlines Flight 77, crashed into the Pentagon leading to a partial collapse on its western side. The fourth plane, United Airlines Flight 93, targeted Washington DC, but crashed into a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania after its passengers tried to overcome the hijackers.

Their efforts undoubtedly saved hundreds if not thousands of lives.

It was the deadliest incident for first responders in the history of the United States. 343 New York City firefighters including the fire chief, first deputy commissioner, and the department chaplain lost their lives along with eight New York City EMS Paramedics. The New York City Police Department lost 23 officers, and the Port Authority Police Department lost 37 officers. Since 9/11, 19 years ago, over 800 additional first responders have died of 9/11 related illnesses.

Police officers, firefighters, and first responders ran into the fire and smoke and rubble that the twin towers had become in an attempt to save those left trapped and injured in the buildings.

They ran into the fire.

The attacks killed 2,996 people and injured over 6,000. 

And today, 19 years after that tragedy, Americans still pay tribute to the memory of them all.

*****

ACFR firefighters

Today, members of Alachua County Fire Rescue (ACFR) will remember the men and women who lost their lives in the events of September 11, 2001 by climbing the stadium steps at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on the University of Florida campus at 5:30 p.m. The public is invited to participate in climbing the steps and cheering on the firefighters.

Face coverings and social distancing are required.

Annually, firefighters across the nation pay respects to those affected by the events on September 11th by participating in a stair climb of 2,226 steps to replicate reaching the top of the World Trade Center. 

A reported 2,977 people perished in the attacks in New York City, Washington D.C., and the plane crash just outside Shanksville, PA. Of these victims, there were 343 FDNY firefighters, 23 NYPD officers and 37 Port Authority Officers who paid the ultimate sacrifice attempting to rescue those trapped in the World Trade Center buildings.

ACFR suggests for those wishing to make a financial donation, visit Stephen Stiller’s Tunnel to Towers Foundation.

For more information, contact ACFR Assistant Chief Michael Cowart at 352-562-6550.

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