Area first responders remember their 9/11 brethren

Area first responders remember their 9/11 brethren
Dave Mast

Fire fighters put on 80 pounds of gear and walked 55 sets of Holmes County Courthouse steps — the equivalent of the stairs in the Twin Towers — to honor their fallen fellow emergency responders who passed away during the 9/11 attacks 20 years ago.

                        

Step by step area firefighters, police officers and other community members joined the walk up and down the north stairs of the Holmes County Courthouse on Saturday, Sept. 11.

The time was 8:46 a.m., which held a particular significance in this climb. That was the exact time the first terrorist-flown plane flew into the first of the two Twin Towers in New York two decades ago, igniting one of the most excruciating days in United States history.

The walk was designed by Brian Rafferty, Holmes Fire District #1 assistant fire chief, who wanted to honor those who served and perished in the 9/11 attacks. Rafferty put out a call to all fire and EMT districts and on Facebook to invite anyone who wanted to join the somber event of a stair walk on the courthouse steps.

The plan was to walk 55 flights of stairs on the courthouse steps to coincide with the number of steps fire fighters, rescue workers and officers would have taken to forge their way to the top of the Twin Tower buildings.

For several of the fire fighters who showed up, they made the stair climb in full gear, an additional 80 pounds of weight to carry. For those members who knew the sacrifices those men and women made on that day, they were more than willing to strap on their gear to honor their fallen comrades.

“We are blessed to serve in a nation built on freedom and by the sacrifices of people like those who served and gave their lives in the 9/11 attacks,” Rafferty said. “We saw many fire fighters, police officers and emergency first responders being called to action who willingly gave their lives for others. My hope was to create an opportunity where we could honor their memory. It’s important for us to remember those who sacrificed in service.”

Rafferty said he is certain emergency, fire and police departments discussed this moment as it arrived, and he said even in a rural community like Holmes County, he understands what is at risk every time the alarm sounds and they roll out of the station on an emergency call.

“Every time we respond, no matter how small, it could be the last time we serve,” Rafferty said. “We never take anything for granted, and we certainly won’t take the people who served and died on 9/11 and the sacrifice they made for granted.”

During the walk the participants stopped for a moment of silence when each of the planes crashed and killed so many innocent people on that day. Rafferty said whether people walked one set of stairs, all 55 or anywhere in between, their effort to commemorate and honor those who died was honorable.

Dave Hall spent 10 years as a Holmes County commissioner and eight more as an Ohio state representative, so he has a good understanding of what local law enforcement and fire and EMS teams face each day. He and his wife Anita joined the walk. He said it was something they wanted to do for the brotherhood and sisterhood of first responders.

“It’s a respect and understanding for what went on and for the people who served during that time,” Hall said. “It helps us better understand the role of those who are out there serving every day, and we wanted to support our local fire fighters and law-enforcement people who willingly put themselves into dangerous situations. They are not thinking about themselves, but they are thinking about serving others, which is exactly what those brave people did on 9/11.”

Nikki Lucas, EMT and fire fighter for Western Holmes Fire and EMS, was one of those who strapped on the 80 pounds and hit the stairs fully dressed in fire-fighting garb.

“Fifty-five sets of steps seem astronomical when you’re in full gear, but it was something I wanted to do to honor those who served and died on 9/11,” Lucas said. “I’m going to give it my best and walk as many as I possibly can. I’m glad we can bond together and honor others in this way.”

Lucas was a sophomore in high school when the 9/11 attacks occurred, and she said that was one of the main reasons she wanted to become a fire fighter.

“We were kids back then,” Lucas said. “We aren’t kids any more, and there probably isn’t a single one of us who would say what happened on 9/11 didn’t have a major impact on their lives. That’s why we all feel it is important to commemorate those who served.”

As they walked the stairs, each step was taken with sincerity, respect and honor as they stepped as one for those who sacrificed everything so they could do so.


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