The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, left a lasting impact on nearly every American. For many members of the , that infamous day had an extremely personal impact.
Wilmington department members stayed at a Queens firehouse several times in the years leading up to September 11, forming bonds with many firefighters each trip. In the aftermath of the planes crashing into the Twin Towers, 19 members of Squad 288 and Haz Mat 1 were killed, six of which Wilmington firefighters had become friendly with.
In the days and months that followed September 11, Wilmington firefighters supported their fallen friends and others they did not even know with countless trips back to New York City for funerals and memorial services. In addition, they raised thousands of dollars to support firefighter families who struggled to pay bills.
“Firefighters have a special bond to begin with, being able to just shake hands and share common stories,” said Deputy Fire Chief John Brown. “But the tragic events of September 11 brought a lot of us even closer together, even though it was with a heavy heart."
Tuesday is the 11th anniversary of the attacks, and Wilmington firefighters will spend the day in New York once again this year. The locals will spend the day in Brooklyn with firefighters who lost four of their own, traveling to the cemetery for a memorial.
Brown said that in addition to the firefighters who they knew that lost their lives on September 11, he and other Wilmington residents have in a way gotten to know other perished firefighters in the decade-plus since they gave the ultimate sacrifice.
“You get to know them even after their deaths through stories, both funny and sad,” said Brown. “As you travel through the city, it’s like you remember working with them, even though you never did. You get memories when you look at pictures and listen to stories.”
In the years following September 11, Brown said he and other Wilmington firefighters have continued to stay in touch with their New York counterparts through e-mails, phone calls and Christmas cards.
Though Brown said he thinks of those who lost their lives in 2001 on a regular basis, that will particularly be the case on Tuesday.
“People should never forget the sacrifices that were made,” said Brown. “Innocent people went to work that day and the last thing on their mind was dying in a terrorist attack. Not to mention the sacrifices made by policemen and firefighters. The anniversary of September 11 is not just a special day for me, but one that every American should be aware of. I don’t think we should ever forget.”