Five years ago, I shared my reflections on how the fire service was impacted by the events of September 11, 2001. This was the tenth anniversary of that horrendous day, when so many lives were lost and millions of Americans saw their lives forever changed.
In anticipation of the 15th anniversary of 9-11, I watched the video to see if my observations still rang true, and the answer is yes, for the most part. The US fire service did take the lessons learned from 9-11 and adapt to this new threat of terrorist attacks on our homeland. Heightened awareness, new training, and improved equipment along with increased federal funding and grants and overwhelming public support for the fire service created a better foundation for the fire service to respond than previously existed.
But that foundation is showing signs of stress. Federal funding and grants have shrunk, leaving some departments unable to maintain equipment previously purchased. Public support has waned, and the fire service is dealing with public policy and budget officials who see the events of 9-11 thru the fog of 15 years, as a one-time event and not an ever present threat.
During the 2011 video, I mentioned the challenge of the long road to normalcy and risk of occupational illness to those who responded. With the construction of a new World Trade Center and rebuilding of the Pentagon complete, some may think normalcy has returned. But for the tens of thousands of responders and their families who have endured post-traumatic stress and debilitating and sometimes fatal respiratory illnesses and cancers, they will never see a return to normalcy.
If you happen to travel thru Logan Airport, you may see two gates/jet bridges that fly the American flag 24/7. American Airlines flight 11 departed from Gate 32 and United Airlines flight 175 departed from Gate 19 on September 11, 2001, each of these later being flown into the World Trade Center. Each time I see those flags, I am brought back to September 11, 2001. After reflecting how much that day changed my life, I say a prayer for those we lost that day and through the years that followed. I remember their families and the struggle they face each day.