Great Falls to mark 20th anniversary of 9/11 with ceremony in Elks Riverside Park

Great Falls Fire Rescue, with other local first responders, is hosting a remembrance ceremony at 7:45 a.m. in Elks Riverside Park on Saturday to mark the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

The ceremony will include music, color guard presentation, a bell ceremony at the time of the south tower collapse, a moment of silence and remarks from local officials.

GFFR Assistant Chief Bob Shupe said that it’s important to mark the anniversary of the attack which was a significant event nationally, but a “huge loss” to the fire service.

Shupe said in New York, 75 fire stations throughout the city lost at least one member of their department.

“That’s huge, there’s a lot of people affected by that,” he said. “In the blink of an eye, that many people are gone.”

Shupe said that in the aftermath, many were trying to dig out their own firefighters, “which is something we take personally, and they were trying to serve their city and they didn’t know what was coming next.”

He said that the event motivated many to join the military, it also motivated many to become firefighters or other first responders.

For those already in the fire service, Shupe said the Sept. 11 attacks caused “a feeling of uneasiness, not knowing what this meant longterm not only for the people in New York but also our own communities.”

It was also felt in the day to day. Before calls could be anything, but after Sept. 11, it could be in the back of their minds that something major could be an attack of some sort, Shupe said.

“A lot of time, in fire service, we take calculated risks for things we like to preplan, whether it be hazmat, a big fire, explosion, we can pretty much pull out a playbook on what that’s going to look like in a loose kind of way,” Shupe said.”But in terrorist event, which is meant to harm the most number of people, there could be secondary events to hit first responders. So have to keep your head on a swivel.”

He said that many communities had those concerns more than Great Falls, but “anything bad or catastrophic that could possibly happen, we’re the guys coming, so there’s a lot of things to think about and plan for.

Shupe said that many entities, such as airports and refineries, looked at their operations after Sept. 11 and adjusted their security protocols and emergency response plans.

“We battened down the hatches here in Great Falls and started doing a lot more planning for what we call low frequency high risk events,” he said.