Ten years after terrorist attacks sent New York’s Twin Towers crumbling to the ground, hundreds of Edmontonians came together to commemorate the 343 firefighters who lost their lives that day, as well as the first responders who have perished in Edmonton since.
The annual 9/11 memorial service, held at the Firefighter’s Memorial Plaza at 103rd Street and 83rd Avenue, allows local firefighters to pay their respects to their fallen comrades. But this year’s service was especially meaningful to those in attendance, as it was an opportunity to reflect on the tragic events that transpired a decade ago – marking what the chairman of the Edmonton Firefighters Memorial Society, Robb Cavell, calls the single greatest loss of firefighters in history.
“10 years ago we watched the attacks unfold, first in disbelief as the realization of what was occuring, and worse still, of what was about to occur began to sink in,” said Cavell, recalling watching the live broadcasts of scores of New York’s bravest being sent into the towers.
It’s an image that has become engrained into the minds of many.
“It’s one of those things where everyone can remember where they were and you never forget it,” said Neil Chiste. The new recruit is hoping to soon join the brotherhood of firefighters, who regularly put their lives on the line to save others.
“Everybody is running out when we’re running in and not thinking of our own personal safety,” said Charles Morland, who put in more than 35 years with the service before retiring. “We’re in there to get the public – the people who pay our paychecks- to get them out safely, if it’s at all possible.”
The job can often come at a price, though. Over the years, it has cost 15 Edmonton firefighters their lives. Their names, along with those of 12 retirees who passed away this year, were read out at Sunday’s ceremony.
“It’s becoming more and more powerful each and every year because the names I’m reading out are friends of mine, not just other firefighters who have gone before me,” said Edmonton Fire Chief Ken Block, with watery eyes. “And the family gets tighter each and every year.”
With files from Quinn Ohler.