THUNDER BAY – At 10:38 a.m. on Wednesday, local firefighters honoured the brave men and women who were killed in the deadliest terrorist attack in human history.
Eighteen years after an Islamic terrorist group hijacked four U.S. passenger airlines – two of which were flown into the North and South towers of the World Trade Center in New York City – first responders around the world honored the victims and their families.
The Sept. 11, 2001 attacks remain the single deadliest incident for firefighters and police officers in U.S. history, with 343 and 72 killed respectively.
To this day, the death count from 9/11 continues to rise for firefighters.
According to a study of the New York Fire Department, cancer incidence just among firefighters who were at Ground Zero on and directly after 9/11 has spiked by approximately 20 per cent compared with New York firefighters who weren’t exposed.
Thunder Bay Fire Rescue chief John Hay says the crew tries to do something to honour the victims every year.
On Wednesday, they held a moment of silence during the minute the second tower fell 18 years ago.
"I was on-duty when it happened," Hay said. "A lot of awe, some disbelief, and a lot of concern for everyone who was there."
"We shared the frustration of all firefighters. Especially when you see there wasn't a lot to do, there wasn't a lot of people to be saved."
Hay said the brotherhood and sisterhood of firefighting creates a common empathy for first-responders that spans borders.
"We have common commitment to serve the public, and when that commitment causes us to lose a life, we do not take that lightly. To have an incident like this happen, it's just devastating across the world.
Hay said since 2001, the impacts of trauma on mental health has improved exponentially, but there is still a lot more work to do.
"We're still not where we want to be. There's still people who are missing work or their quality of life isn't as good as it should be because of the things they see at work.
"We're going to continue to develop wellness programs, and work hard to build resiliency in all our staff, because the situations will come."