Sacrifice and service: First responders’ view of 9/11

BY CORIE LYNN

Saturday marked the 20th anniversary of the attack on the Twin Towers.

The event brought Americans together to grieve and honor those lost that day. Because of this, September 11 stands as a reminder of unity and sacrifice.

For first responders, September 11 carries a special significance.

“Every day, first responders and military personnel lose their life to suicide, homicide and line of duty death,” Ellis County EMS Director Jason Kennedy said. “This day is a time to remember all of them.”

To him, the day should remind everyone of the daily sacrifices of first responders.

According to Kennedy, there exists a close, family-like connection between first responders. It is this connection that allows them to understand selflessness during crises such as that on Sep. 11, 2001.

For Hays Fire Chief Darin Myers, the significance of the day extends to the weeks and months that followed, as he recalls support and honor shown to police officers, firefighters, medics and military personnel.

For Myers, it is days like September 11 that show why first responders do their work. They are there for the major crises and the smaller scale, worst-case scenarios.

“We almost always get to help somebody in need in some fashion or another every day,” he said. “It may not be the best outcome, but it is why we do it, to help our community, our neighbors, or families and friends.”

This purpose for first responders has not changed in the last 20 years, but the world around them has as a result of that day.

According to Kennedy, such changes include an emphasis on respiratory protection, early cancer detection and mental health services as the factors continue to contribute to deaths today.

Myers also saw a change in the viewpoint that an event such as the attack on the Twin Towers could ever happen. This also sparked changes in communication and emergency planning.

“I feel there was a sense of need to increase the amount of emergency preparedness training for all levels in an organization,” he said.

While September 11 serves as a day of remembrance, students from kindergarteners to college students were born after that day. To them, it is an event they are told about rather than an event they remember.

But both Myers and Kennedy believe this generation can still take steps to honor that day.

Myers, who was serving in the military in 2001, encouraged students to pursue the stories of individuals who have sacrificed for their country, to visit with first responders and to visit the 9/11 memorial.

He hopes that the experiences of first responders help them to understand different perspectives.

“Always be thankful for what you have, and give that thanks to those who helped you have it today,” Myers said. 

According to Kennedy, students can still be taught the need to defend their country and to care for others on their worst days.

“Even if you don’t remember September 11, 2001, you will never forget the day you gave of yourself to help others,” he said.

Even so, Kennedy believes that the best way to understand the significance of a life of serving is to serve, and encourages students to pursue careers in public service.

“We can all honor the individuals that gave their lives on September 11, 2001, by picking up the torch and pushing forward,” Kennedy said.

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