JOHNSON CITY/KINGSPORT (ABC Tri-Cities) As we remember the lives lost on this day 18 years ago, we are also honoring Tri-Cities firefighters who played a part in the relief efforts of the September 11th attacks.
It is a day that still haunts Americans.
“It was so tragic that on September 11th, 2001, we’re reliving something from the Pearl Harbor Day,” Johnson City Fire Department Chief Jim Stables recalled. “Somebody came in and said, ‘Hey, a plane just struck the World Trade Center’. I said, ‘Wow, that’s odd, so we turned on the news and we were following it and then another plane struck the tower. Then we realized it wasn’t an accident but it was actually a purposeful act.”
To this day, first responders carry themselves a bit differently.
“Our fire stations became hardened. Before, they were the community gathering place and the doors were always opened, and that’s one thing I’ll say here is we’re still in that place because there’s not a worry about that but that is in the back of our mind at times,” Chief Stables explained. “Things that we would have never thought of: surveillance cameras in our fire stations and those types of things are now a reality.”
Chief Stables was in Florida working as a battalion chief when the attacks occurred.
“It mobilized a lot of feelings in all of us and we certainly ramped up to be able to assist and make sure that our home-front was covered,” Chief Stables said. “To see the pain on their face because they have emergency response personnel working for the FDNY, and it was an all hands-on-deck event.”
Kingsport firefighter Sean Broyles received a phone call the day of the attacks to help with the aftermath.
“Everybody wanted to help in their own way. The pictures you see, the video footage really doesn’t do it justice until you’ve seen in it person actually,” captain paramedic Sean Broyles said. “You know, I talk to guys that live up there and they were just talking about how the city had come together and everybody in general had come together.”
Broyles was in New York for nine days.
He recalled, “Going through automobiles and rubble, trying to extinguish VIN numbers, find personal pics, body parts, whatever.”
He made the trek from Long Island to ground zero each day.
“We actually worked, for a brief stint, at the FDNY’s garage. Opened up firetrucks, trying to regain equipment for firetrucks that had been damaged, and things like that,” Broyles said.
While September 11th has left a scar on many Americans, Broyles uses this day to remind new firefighters to never take the dangers of the job for granted.
“Never take this job as a routine because there were 343 firefighters that came to work that morning and it was a regular shift for them”, Broyles said.
Chief Stables said, “The folks in New York that laid their lives down, whether they were civilians or emergency response personnel, we’ll be forever in their debt.”
Click here to nominate a Community Hero.