It’s been 19 years since the events of September 11, 2001 where hijackers took control of four commercial airplanes that crashed them into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and a field in Shanksville, PA.
Nearly 3,000 people were killed that day, including more than 400 firefighters, paramedics and police officers.
First responders and Montana leaders gathered at the State Capitol on Friday to honor them,and the sacrifice all first responders make in the line of duty.
“Today we remember the thousands of Americans that have lost their loved ones and didn’t have the opportunity to say goodby,” said Helena Mayor Wilmot Collins. “A day in which we are reminded of the extraordinary sacrifices America’s first responders come face to face with every single time they are in the line of duty.”
While the Capitol event looked significantly different with fewer people all socially distanced and in masks, the core message remained the same as it has for nearly two decades. Never forget.
Minutes after the first plane hit the north tower of the world trade center, firefighters, paramedics and police were all enroute to provide what aid they could.
There had never been an incident like this before. Those first responders rushed into the unknown in a desperate attempt to evacuate the area, not knowing the dangers they faced.
“Hundreds of first responders, firefighters, police officers and EMTs made that ultimate sacrifice 19 years ago today,” said Governor Steve Bullock. “Without their bravery we would have lost many, many more lives in the September 11 attacks. Let us try to follow their example of valor and of service.”
Speakers at the Capitol emphasized the need to remember, especially now, how the events of that fateful day united and unified the country.
“This day, now and forever, will always bring one word to the forefront of my mind, and that word is together,” said Collins. While as Americans we may find disagreement in our politics, we must never lose sight of the bigger picture. We must never forget that in America, fellow Americans are not and will never be our enemies.”
Helena Councilman Sean Logan recalled his time as Helena’s Fire Chief in 2001 and the effects 9/11 had for years to come.
On first anniversary of the attacks St. Peter’s Ambulance paramedic Kevin Fitzgerald, who passed in 2015 of a heart attack, addressed a crowd at the Civic Center with words that Logan believes perfectly encompasses what it means to be a first responder.
“Many of you will remember paramedic Kevin Fitzgerald of the St. Peter’s ambulance service, now deceased. God rest his soul. He spoke at that event and concluded his remarks with a reminder to us emergency responders, but really to all in saying, ‘As you go to bed tonight hug your kids, your spouse, your families, tell them you love them. You may not get another chance,’” said Logan.
No school age child will remember the events of 9/11, they weren’t born yet. But the events from that Tuesday had lasting impacts that are still felt today.
Many things have changed in the 19 years since the attacks, but that same courage that led those firefighters, police and paramedics lives on through all first responders that wake up and go to work not knowing if they’ll return home.