BANGOR, Maine — Few, if any, United States citizens were left untouched by the tragedies in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania on Sept. 11, 2001, but firefighters — above all others — hold tight the memories of their “brothers” who perished rushing to help others on that fateful day.
Fire departments across the nation are planning early morning memorial services today to pay tribute to those who died, and the list includes departments in Bangor, Ellsworth, Monson and others around Maine.
“There isn’t a day that goes by that that having taken place doesn’t come to mind,” 20-year-veteran Bangor firefighter John Higgins said Tuesday. “Especially with us still at war.”
Hundreds of New York City firefighters responded to the World Trade Center’s twin towers when terrorists hijacked two commercial airplanes and flew them into the city’s tallest buildings early on that September day.
Two NYC paramedics and 341 firefighters died doing their duty that day. The death toll for the separate terrorist attacks in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania totaled around 3,000.
Higgins, who serves as president of the Bangor Professional Firefighter Union, Local 772, said the subject just slips into day-to-day conversations at the fire station.
“We were talking about it last night,” he said. “It’s just hard to imagine that it happened in one fell swoop like that. It’s too bad so many fire-fighters and police lost their lives.”
Bangor Fire Department’s 9-11 Remembrance Ceremony is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. today at the Central Fire Station on Main Street. Higgins suggested that anyone planning to attend should arrive early. Bangor firefighter Jim Metcalf will lead the ceremony that will include the Firemen’s Prayer, a mo-ment of silence, an invocation by the Rev. Bob Carlson, and ringing of the fire department’s bell. City officials have been invited.
Ellsworth is holding a ceremony on the front steps of City Hall “to remember those who lost their lives,” Richard Tupper, Ellsworth Fire Department deputy chief, said in a Tuesday e-mail about the event.
Firefighters, city staff and others will assemble at 9:45 a.m. Ellsworth Fire Chief John Mar-shall will speak at the ceremony, bells will be rung, a minute of silence will be observed and the Rev. Scott Conners will give the invocation.
Monson, which falls under Local 771, is planning to hold a similar memorial at around 7 p.m.
“All of the bigger departments will have some sort of ceremony,” Higgins said.
Local firefighters did not know the men and women who died on that tragic September day seven years ago, but fire-fighters nationwide stick together “like a big family,” Hig-gins said.
“We always call it a brother-hood,” he said. “We spend two 24-hour shifts with each other a week. You can’t help but be-come close. You depend on each other, and everybody depends on you.”
Fire Chief Jim Ellis, who serves both Holden and Eddington, said “one of the neat things about being in the fire service is you can go into any fire department [nationwide], say you’re a firefighter and they’ll welcome you with open arms. It’s a brotherhood.”
He added that it is important to remember and honor those who died because “for every death, there is a family that is missing a loved one. Our thoughts go out to those left behind.”
Firefighters from all over Maine volunteered to go to New York after Sept. 11, 2001, but the National Association of Fire-fighters sent out a message that put them into a holding pattern because of the influx of volunteers.
“We waited for the call and never got the call,” Higgins said.
The next year, Bangor Fire sent two buses filled with local firefighters and families down to ground zero in New York for the first anniversary of the at-tack. Annual ceremonies are held in Bangor, across Maine and the nation, and will continue for years to come, Higgins said.
“You can’t forget,” he said.