“We are overcomers.” | Great Falls marks 16th anniversary of Sept. 11 attacks

Few civilians showed up Monday to remember the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, but Station 1 in downtown Great Falls was filled with firefighters and police officers from Great Falls Fire Rescue, Great Falls Police Department, Malmstrom Air Force Base and the Montana Air National Guard fire departments, Black Eagle Fire Department and more.

It’s a “day we never forget,” said Battalion Chief Dave Van Son.

It was, according to Van Son, the deadliest incident in U.S. history for firefighters and police.

Speaking during the ceremony, Adam Jordan of GFFR said that the attack caused some changes in firefighting tactics, but that the mission remained the same.

“This is what we do,” he said.

Assistant Fire Chief Ron Scott said that they were gathered to pay tribute to the men and women who lost their lives in the Sept. 11 attacks in New York City, at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. and in a Pennsylvania field and their families.

But it was also a call to not make the remembrance a fleeting thought each year and to instead honor those first responders who died that day by working to make a difference here at home.

Current events sometimes seem scary, depressing and sometimes “makes us want to shrink back…to play small,” said GFPD Chief Dave Bowen.

This day is a “reminder of what can happen if we let evil go unchecked and do nothing,” Bowen said.

A bell rang out during the ceremony in honor of those who answered their last call on Sept. 11, 2001 and a moment of silence created a stillness punctuated only by nearby traffic.

The Mount Olive Alexander Temple Choir sang the national anthem, Amazing Grace and God Bless America.

Their director Marcus Collins, offered a prayer at the end of the ceremony.

“We are overcomers,” he said.

Airman 1st Class Adam Van Lange was talking to his dad on the phone as his dad was driving in NYC and saw the World Trade Centers burning.

“Knowing what happened, that families lots their dads, families lost their husbands,” he said. “I’m grateful to be alive.”

Now the 30-year-old is a firefighter at Malmstrom and said the ceremony and pancake breakfast afterward were a great way to honor the fallen, but also to strengthen ties with the local firefighter community.

“It’s building an even stronger brotherhood,” Van Lange said. “We might need each other.”

It’s also important to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice, he said, and as military firefighters, it affects them on multiple levels.

“We have to be willing to go in while people are running out,” he said of the fire service.

Adam Jordan will mark two years at GFFR in January, but it’s his first time attending the department’s annual ceremony.

Despite the smaller turnout this year, he said he appreciated the community support and participation from other local first responders.

The remembrance holds those who sacrificed their lives on Sept. 11 in high regard, but it’s also a reminder of the standard they set.

“That we ought to be willing, at a moment’s notice,” Jordan said, “to sacrifice for the betterment of the community.”