by Nathan Boddy
An important anniversary for the United States is less than two weeks away, and the Hamilton Volunteer Fire Department does not intend to let it go by unnoticed. That anniversary is, of course, the terrorist attacks which occurred on the morning of September 11th, 2001. On that day, four commercial aircraft were hijacked and deliberately used as weapons against the United States, killing over 2,900 people. The first attack came as American Airlines Flight 11 impacted the northern World Trade Center tower at 8:46 Eastern time.
Joe Kerr, a firefighter with HVFD, was working as a paramedic and a firefighter in Billings on the day of the attacks. Says Kerr, “It changed everything we knew in a moment, and what we thought we knew.” He adds that, “Even before the towers fell, we were thinking about what we could do to help.”
Kerr is aware that, with the 2001 attacks 20 years behind us, not everyone can know how much of an impact they made upon the American identity. “Those who are old enough can remember exactly where we were, and what we were doing when it happened. It was etched into our memories forever.” That memory, especially for those who gave their all to help those in need, is something Joe Kerr feels has made the United States stronger.
“For fire fighters, at least for me and I’m sure many more, it’s hard to imagine arriving on scene and seeing the big hole in the building and all the fire and smoke billowing out. But yet, they grabbed their gear and marched straight into the building because they knew people needed their help, not knowing the events to come.”
The importance of the 9/11 attacks to our national identity, as well as the understanding of many global events of the last two decades, is something that HVFD does not want to overlook. To that end, Joe Kerr of HVFD has taken on the role as chair of a committee to organize an event to commemorate the 20th anniversary of that fateful day.
The anniversary this year falls on a Saturday, and the commemoration will begin at 10 a.m. at the Hamilton Fire Station on the corner of 3rd and State. The event will include a flag ceremony, as well as the ceremonial ringing of bells in recognition of events of that day. Kerr explains that a traditional symbol for a fallen firefighter is the ringing of bells in three sets of five, to indicate that individual’s ‘coming home for the last time.’ On the 9/11 anniversary, that symbology will be lent to the recognition of the four attacks that took place on that day: the two World Trade Center towers, the Pentagon and United Flight 93. Multiple regional fire departments will be in attendance, and the HVFD would love to see area residents attend this show of unity for an important part of United States history.
Joe Kerr feels that this important marker contains a message that everyone should absorb. “To remind us life is precious and can be taken at any time.”