Fallen firefighters, including those killed in the 9/11 attacks 17 years ago, were remembered at a ceremony on in Lethbridge on Tuesday.
“We lost 343 firefighters in one event, which was the biggest loss to the firefighting community in North America,” Warren Nelson, a member of both the Lethbridge Fire Department and its Honour Guard, said about the anniversary of a series of deadly terrorist attacks in the U.S.
In Lethbridge, uniformed emergency service providers marched east along 4 Avenue S. from the fire department’s headquarters to Southminster United Church.
Nelson, who has spent 30 years in the Lethbridge Fire Department, said the number of firefighters who have been diagnosed with cancer is a concern for him.
“We’ve unfortunately in the last several years had seven cancer deaths since I’ve been on the department,” he said. “That’s where my thoughts go usually during this. We want to honour our local people and give them the tribute that they deserve.”
Scott and Stacey Carpenter laid a wreath for their father at the Lethbirdge ceremony on Tuesday. Don Carpenter passed away from leukemia this year. His children said he retired in 2000 after serving 35 years with the Lethbridge Fire Department.
Stacey Carpenter said doctors told her family his cancer was work-related.
“When dad started, he didn’t have any breathing apparatus at all,” she said. “They went in with nothing, just a helmet, and I remember him coming home some mornings or at six o’clock at night and go, ‘Hmm, you were at a fire today dad. I can smell you from here.'”
“And he’d cough up black smoke,” Scott Carpenter added.
The Carpenters said they are thankful that a lot has changed since then to improve safety for first responders.
They said the role of firefighters is vital to the safety of communities at home and around the world.
“It’s dangerous work, and they do it for the citizens of whatever city they’re working for,” Scott said. “We’re very proud of our father for his service.”
“We’re proud of all of them.” Stacey added.