Great Falls gathers to honor those lost on 18th anniversary of Sept. 11

The community came together again this year to remember those killed on Sept. 11, 2001.

Despite cloudy skies, cooler temps and intermittent rain, fire fighters, law enforcement and medical responders gathered with community members at Great Falls Fire Rescue Station No. 1.

GFFR Chief Steve Hester said that 18 years later he remembers what he was doing the day of the attacks.

Local responders, community gather to remember those lost in 9/11 attacks

He said it’s important to remember those who were attacked that day and also the first responders “who made the ultimate sacrifice.”

It’s fitting to have memorials to honor them, he said, but the most important thing was again gathering as a community to remember them.

“When this tragedy happened we pulled together,” Hester said. “I think we should remember that as well on this day.”

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Great Falls Police Chief Dave Bowen said that in honoring those who gave selflessly that day in 2001, he wondered if we had to stand and give an account to those who died that day, what would we say we have done since then.

He asked attendees to reflect on how that day impacted them and what they have been passing on to the next generation.

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City Commissioner Bill Bronson said Sept. 11, 2001 was akin to the Pearl Harbor attack of Dec. 7, 1941 in terms of being a moment in time etched in the memories of a generation.

His father was a World War II veteran and could tell you where he was when he heard about Pearl Harbor, he said.

“He will never forget those memories, or the cascading series of events that followed,” Bronson said.

He said the magnitude of loss from the Sept. 11 attacks has continued since first responders were exposed to toxic substances during the rescue and recovery efforts and many have since been diagnosed with cancer.

The full scale of loss that stems from the Sept. 11 attacks is not yet known, he said.

“This day is not an isolated moment in time,” Bronson said.

Sept. 11, 2001 was the most deadly day for firefighters in American history.

That day, 343 employees of the New York Fire Department–340 firefighter, two paramedics and a chaplain–were killed responding to the terrorist attack at the World Trade Center.

In addition to firefighters, the death toll that day included 37 police officers from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Police Department; 23 police officers of the New York City Police Department; 8 emergency medical technicians and paramedics from private agencies; one patrolman from the New York Fire Patrol; and 55 military personnel.

In total, nearly 3,000 people died and more than 6,000 were injured on Sept. 11, 2001.

That included 265 people on the four planes; 2,606 in the World Trade Center and surrounding area and 125 at the Pentagon.

Sept. 11 is also a reminder of what can happen to any first responder on any given day, Bronson said.

“These individuals are at risk every single day they are on call,” Bronson said.

He said Sept. 11 is a day to remember those lost in the attacks, but also a reminder that first responders are “prepared to put their lives on the line every day.”

Jeremy Jones, assistant fire chief, told The Electric that they are starting to have firefighters who were too young to understand what was happening that day, but “a lot of us were on the job when this happened.”

In addition to the losses, the attacks have left another legacy on the fire service in that afterward, the federal government mandates incident command systems and it brought to light that responders needed to operate in heirarchical systems to best respond to emergencies and improve communications.