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First responders, community members honor 9/11 heroes and victims

Area first responders and others paid tribute Monday morning to those who died 22 years ago in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.


Firefighters from the Tahlequah Fire Department and area rural fire departments, police officers, those from the Northeastern State University Reserve Officer Training Corps, and others trekked 110 stories at NSU’s Doc Wadley Stadium, which is the equivalent of those who climbed the stairs in the World Trade Center.


Twenty-two years ago, 343 firefighters, 71 law enforcement officers, and eight EMS workers were killed in the attacks. More than 3,000 civilians died and more than 6,000 were injured after four commercial passenger planes were hijacked by individuals from the Al Qaeda terrorist group.


Two of the planes crashed into each tower of the World Trade Center in New York City. The third struck the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and the fourth plane plummeted into a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania after passengers tried to intervene to prevent it from hitting another site that was targeted in the capital.


“Those first responders went to work that day, not knowing it was their last. They died alongside their brothers and sisters that day and saved people they didn’t even know. Without their heroics, there would have been many more lives lost. We will never know all the lives they helped save that day,” said Tahlequah Fire Chief Casey Baker.


The fire chief quotes from the Gospels every year when he speaks about the tragedy: “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends,” from John 15:13.


The mark made that day is still felt today as more than 500 firefighters have lost their lives from working at the toxic site months and years after the tragedy.


“[We honor] the over 7,000 service men and woman that who died in the 9/11 wars; Iraq; Afghanistan; and elsewhere. It seems society nowadays tends to forget history. The Tahlequah Fire Department honors those brave first responders that lost their lives that day and the days following with this memorial,” Baker said.


Mayor Suzanne Myers attended the annual Stair Climb and she said she couldn’t be proud of Tahlequah’s heroes and citizens.


“I wish we had all been at home and able to catch a few more minutes of sleep, but that is impossible based on the action against our country and our democracy,” Myers said. “This morning was heartwarming because of those that were there, and so very sad when you thought about the families who had lost so many loved ones in these tragic events.


Furthermore, Myers is thankful for those in the community who demonstrated one of the many “freedoms we possess as Americans.”


The firefighters of the Tahlequah Fire Department hold a Bell Ceremony at Station 1 at 9 a.m., every year on Sept. 11.


The tradition used by firefighters is the sound of a bell has several significant meanings. In the past, the bell signaled the beginning of that day’s shift.


“Throughout the day and night, each alarm was sounded by a bell, which called them to duty and to place their life in jeopardy for the good of their fellow men and women,” Assistant Fire Chief Mark Whittmore said.


The bell rang three times to signal the end when the call ended and the alarm was completed.


“And now our brothers and sisters having completed their task, their duties well done, and the bell rings three times followed by a pause, three times followed by a pause and three times in memory and in tribute to their life and service,” Whittmore said.


The bell also signifies when a firefighter is killed in the line of duty.

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