Local first responders and officials gathered Tuesday morning at a Chapel Hill fire station to honor the victims and heroes of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, remembering the courage and sacrifice of responders as town public safety officials prepare for Hurricane Florence’s arrival.
“It’s important we take the time each year to honor the people that perished on that fateful morning but also recognize the men and women who fought so gallantly to save lives that day,” said Town Manager Maurice Jones. “These heroes arrived on scene and rushed into the crippled twin towers, while others were rushing out.”
In his first three weeks as town manager, Jones said he’s been impressed with Chapel Hill’s emergency personnel and noted the fire department’s success in putting out a local fire Monday night amidst thunderstorms.
“With Hurricane Florence bearing down on the Carolinas, we will be tested again in the coming days," Jones said. "Based on what I know, and have seen of our emergency personnel, I am confident we will be able to take on any challenge.”
Matthew Sullivan, the chief of the Chapel Hill Fire Department, spoke on the bravery of 9/11 first responders and the courage of emergency personnel across the nation. In 2001, Sullivan was employed with New York City to provide peer support and critical incident stress management for first responders following the terrorist attacks.
“It’s easy to overlook the fact that sometimes this type of service puts us in the position of paying the ultimate sacrifice," Sullivan said.
He said he stood in support of his law enforcement colleagues, and he recognized the pressure the police department has faced with recent Silent Sam demonstrations.
“I struggle within the context of what we are here today to honor that those very same officers who have been subject to ridicule and hostility during these events would in the next moment pay the ultimate sacrifice to save the life of those delivering the hostility,” Sullivan said. “It should not take another 9/11 or another respondent's death to remind us of that."
Chapel Hill Mayor Pam Hemminger also spoke to the honor and bravery of the fire and police departments.
“I’m pleased we’ve stopped and paid homage to those who have made us strong, kept us safe and given their lives in service of others’,” Hemminger said. “We do that best when we work in partnership and collaboration, and we serve all people, no matter what. Fire, wind, rain, flooding and statues — these have been our trials and tribulations recently.”
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