The Council Bluffs Fire Department will hold a brief memorial ceremony Wednesday at the bell tower next to its headquarters for firefighters lost on Sept. 11, 2001.
The ceremony will begin shortly before 9 a.m. After some brief remarks, the bell will be rung three times, followed by a pause; then four times, followed by another pause; and then three more times, Assistant Fire Chief Chris Sorensen said. The number and spacing represent the 343 firefighters who lost their lives that day at the site, he said.
It will be a chance for firefighters to remember them and to show their solidarity with other firefighters, said Fire Chief Justin James, who was nearing his two-year anniversary with the department on Sept. 11, 2001.
“Firefighters are pretty good at respecting the people that served before us and those who will come after us,” he said.
James had just returned from an out-of-state training workshop on terrorism incidents when he saw TV coverage of the jet hitting the first tower, he said.
“It’s a day I don’t think any of us will ever forget,” he said. “I think, for those of us on the job, it was a pretty good example of what first responders are willing to sacrifice. Those kinds of examples probably play out every day, but these played out on TV.”
Now a veteran firefighter, James has seen crew members risk their lives to try to rescue people.
“I’ve seen some of my guys go into buildings and I wasn’t sure they were going to come back out,” he said.
Police officers also risk their lives when they try to apprehend armed suspects, James said.
First responders were among those overlooked when the original memorial plaza at Ground Zero was built, according to the Associated Press. The plaza does not include the names of the firefighters or police officers lost that day or any of the first-responders, recovery workers, community members or cleanup workers who became ill or died from exposure to the smoke, dust or contaminants later — in some cases, years later. Studies have shown that there is a higher rate of brain cancer, non-hodgkins lymphoma and heart trouble among those who spent an extended period of time at Ground Zero.
This spring, granite slabs were added to the memorial plaza to recognize these people as a group, but no names were etched into the rocks. That reflects the ongoing illness of some of the people affected and the fact that the final death toll may not have been reached yet.
— Material from the Associated Press was used in this article.