BGFD 9/11 Memorial Speech

New York Times photo, 9/11 NYFD
On Tuesday, September 11, 2001, nineteen al-Quaida terrorists took control of four commercial airliners and launched a series of suicide attacks on the U.S. At 8:46 a.m., American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the World Trade Center’s North Tower. The tower burned for 56 minutes before collapsing.  United Airlines Flight 175 crashed into the South Tower at 9:03 a.m. and burned for 102 minutes before collapsing.

Debris from the North Tower fell on the nearby 7 World Trade Center building, starting additional fires that raged for hours until complete collapse at 5:21 p.m.  Fires continued for 99 days.

Attacks were not limited to New York City. American Airlines flight 77 was flown into the Pentagon at 9:37 a.m. and United Airlines flight 93, destined for either the Capitol or the White House, crashed near Shanksville, Pennsylvania at 10:03 a.m., after passengers bravely fought the hijackers. There were no survivors from any of the planes.

The devastation was horrific.  Over 3,000 children lost a parent that day and over 1,600 people lost a spouse or partner. It is estimated that 20% of Americans know someone hurt or killed in the attacks.

The New York Times stated in a recent article that, “For thousands of horrified office workers who fled the terrorist attacks, the most remarkable sight during their descent was the wave of determined firefighters advancing toward the burning sky.”  

On that fateful Tuesday, the NYFD literally deployed half of their department. They were joined by hundreds of off duty firefighters and EMTs. The NYPD sent Emergency Service Units and deployed its aviation unit. Ultimately, entire companies sacrificed their lives and 2,000 first responders were injured.  Of the nearly 3,000 who died, 411 were emergency workers attempting to rescue victims and fight fires.

The NYFD lost 341 firefighters and 2 paramedics, the NYPD lost 23 officers, the Port Authority Police Department lost 37 officers and eight emergency medical technicians and paramedics from private medical services units were killed. 

In the days that followed, firefighters, police and paramedics from all over the world travelled to ground zero to help. They worked round the clock long after the initial disaster, searching desperately for men, women, children and colleagues. In spite of the extreme loss of life, the number of lives saved is much, much higher; estimates of those who were successfully evacuated or rescued range from 14,000 to 19,000.

Bob Barrett, a New York City firefighter, lost 75 members of his department that day. He became their family liason, letting loved ones know when his colleagues had been found in the rubble.  His message in a recent speech to school children was this; “Never take life for granted.” 

Describing a memorial service for friend and firefighter Jimmy Grey he said, “His 8 year-old daughter got up and spoke and all I can remember her saying is 'Daddy, if I knew you weren't coming home I'd let you tickle me a little harder.' That's what we remember; the little things."

So, let us take a moment of silence to remember not only those who lost their lives both as civilians and bravely in the line of duty on 9/11, but also to remember the little things. And let us also remember today and from this point forward, Bob Barrett’s message, to never take life for granted.

                          --- Chief Greg Johnson, Bowling Green Fire Department, 9/11/11

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