By Chris Mc Loone
We have arrived again at the anniversary of one of the worst days in the United States of America’s history—September 11. To say it was a horrible day for America and the American fire service is understating its impact. It was an attack on our soil that few Americans thought would ever happen. Resolute is the best word I can come up with for how Americans reacted that day after the shock and sorrow of what occurred that morning had run their course.
Resolute. Determined. Unwavering. All of these describe America on that day and the days immediately following. We mourned, and thousands of fellow firefighters searched amid their sorrow. Political differences of opinion aside, from the President all the way through Congress, to the Mayor of New York, New York, the message was essentially the same: you may have knocked America down, but we will rise up again, stronger than we were before. That’s unprecedented leadership.
With the passing of every year, 2001 becomes farther and farther away. Businesses have been reopened for 13 years, and the ranks of the FDNY are replenished. On a personal level, I welcome news coverage replayed as we near the anniversary every year. I never, ever want to forget the feelings I had that day when the Twin Towers came down. I want my three boys to see the evil of that day, the total disrespect for life. They will never understand exactly what it was like to live through that day, and I hope they never have to live through anything like it. However, they need to see the images and television news coverage.
Although we often look back on that day and focus on the images of that day, it is also important to reflect on the good that came from that day—for America and for the fire service.
The events of that day unified the United States of America in a way I had never seen in my lifetime and haven’t seen at that level since. For the fire service, agency-to-agency communications has vastly improved based on lessons learned from that day. Listening to the audio of that day as commanders got the hundreds of firefighters on location organized initially, after the first tower fell, and then the second tower should be part of any organization’s training. Amidst everything that was going on, WTC7 then collapsed. Then there was keeping the normal day-to-day operations of the department intact. Fires didn’t stop that day or the days thereafter.
For America and the American fire service, I am proud to say that forward progress has never stopped. We continue to adjust our operations to what we thought was unthinkable. September 11, 2001 was unexpected, but so was Webster, New York. The fire service, in particular, has not stopped improving and adjusting to whatever comes its way. Product innovations are moving at a rapid place so we can perform our jobs more safely and more efficiently.
It’s important to never ever forget the thousands we lost that day. Equally important to remember is how America did not let those events slow it down. As we reflect today on September 11, 2001, and what it meant to America, let us also reflect on how we are stronger as a country and as the fire service today as a result.
CHRIS Mc LOONE, associate editor of Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment, is a 21-year veteran of the fire service and an assistant chief with Weldon Fire Company (Glenside, PA). He is a member of apparatus and equipment purchasing committees. He has also held engineering officer positions, where he was responsible for apparatus maintenance and inspection. He has been a writer and editor for more than 20 years.