It’s a little obvious to simply say that the world of the fire service changed on Sept. 11, 2001. We lost friends and family. I still wear a bracelet honoring my friend, Ray Downey, and will continue to do so as long as our military men and women are serving in Afghanistan. Beyond that, “we will never forget” is more than a slogan — it’s a way of life. Each Sept. 11 since 2001 has been a day to reflect and honor those who serve as the first line of defense in our community, especially remembering all those who were lost on 9/11/2001.
But the fire service did change. We now have a whole new set of terminology and acronyms. This has resulted in the language of fire service insiders being much different today than before we were attacked. Thedid not exist. With it came a barrage of acronyms: DHS, CBRNE, IED, UASI, SHSP and many more. even publishes a book of acronyms, there are so many.
With Homeland Security came additional training, equipment, tactics and techniques — and a lot more paperwork. For a short term, previously scarce grants were easy to obtain if you were in the right part of the country. Being part of an area awarded Urban Area Security Initiative grants and other DHS grants allowed my department to obtain resources that we otherwise could not have.
Getting the money approved and buying the needed equipment was the easy part. Now we are facing the challenges of maintaining and replacing grant purchased equipment but without grant funding.
Citizens found new respect for the fire service that day — or at least found realization. They seemingly ignored that we ran into burning buildings prior to 09/11/2001. This awakening resulted in overt appreciation of firefighters throughout the U.S. People seemed to realize that homeland security required hometown security and that local firefighters and police officers were that first line of defense. This changed citizens' view of firefighters.
But the pedestal we were put on adds risk as we strive to meet the expectations of our community. Though we continue to have all of the traits, values and philosophies that we had before the attacks on our country, the sense of duty, honor and valor as a member of the family of firefighters has made us stand a little taller and work harder to meet the expectations of our community.
It’s hard to say exactly how the legends, lore, stories and traditions created on 9/11 will affect the fire service in the big picture. But, we do have a renewed and expanded interest in serving in fire department honor guards and pipe-and-drum corps, bringing back important traditions of the past to today’s fire service. These traditions are being passed along to the new personnel within the department.
We continue efforts to expand regional approaches as possible with as much emphasis on the need to economize due to the revenue shortages created by the recession. Over time, the demands caused by the recession and revenue shortfalls has masked many of the impacts, demands, considerations and operational requirements that went into effect after 9/11.
For the first time last year, someone asked me, “Why are we continuing to commemorate Sept. 11?" My answer was simple: “Because we will never forget!”