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INTERNATIONAL PUBLIC SAFETY ASSOCIATION
Together we are stronger

Where were you on 9/11/2001? Reflections from that tragic day

10 Sep 2021 10:08 AM | International Public Safety Association (Administrator)

Time often has a healing effect. Memory of historic events often fades, but we must never forget the horrific events of 9/11. As we honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice to protect our freedom, we also remember where we were on that tragic day and how it's changed our futures as public safety professionals. 

IPSA Board Chair and Assistant Chief J. Scott Quirarte recalls where he was on 9/11/2001

“I was a new fire captain on duty. When the second plane hit the towers we knew we were being attacked. We watched in disbelief; how could this be happening. I quickly realized the crew was looking at me for direction. Honestly, I had no idea what to do so we starting talking about the possibility of an attack on the west coast and what we would do.

The attack occurred close to shift change so we kept both shifts on duty ready to respond in county or mutual aid outside the county. We waited and watched for the next two days.

This was the first time I realized we did not really know our counterparts in law enforcement or emergency management. For a handful of us on the department this was the start of our slow road to better integrated response.”

IPSA Board Member and Ret. Chief Scott Edson remembers 9/11/2001

"I was a Lieutenant for the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department at the time and was at home preparing for work when the first plane hit the twin tower. I watched on TV in horror when the second plane hit. It was now clear to me we were under attack.

My duties at the time we're managing the largest law enforcement Data Network in the nation and of course I was now even more concerned with the cyber-terrorism threat. In 2001 cyber-terrorism was fairly new and unfortunately, terrorism was already growing across the Nation. Today, some 20 years later, cyber-terrorism is most popular terrorism because of the veil of secrecy and an attack will likely have many victims."

IPSA Board Member and Ret. Fire Captain Brad Havrilla recalls 9/11/2001

“I was on duty as a Firefighter Paramedic on our Special Operations Team at Palm Beach County Fire Rescue doing morning equipment checks at the fire station when we saw the first plane crash into the tower. We were all glued to the tv. My thoughts were with the firefighters that I had ridden with in New York while attending the National Fire Academy. I rode with Rescue 1 and Rescue 3 on our weekend break. Our instructors met us at the WTC and gave us a tour and discussed the1993 terrorist bombing response. When the first tower fell one of the firefighters asked if I thought there were crews still in the building. Unfortunately, I knew they definitely were. Days later, some of my closest friends would be working ground zero as members of the USAR team and the US Marshals Service searching for survivors.

After 9/11 I decided that what I was doing as a Special Operations Firefighter/Paramedic was not enough. I made a commitment that night to branch into Law Enforcement as a Tactical Medic. It wasn’t easy back then, but I finally was successful. As a Firefighter I attended the National Firefighter Memorial in Washington DC the next year as a member of our departments Honor Guard. I am proud that I could honor those brave Firefighters and their families. I surrounded myself with people who “Never Forgot” and stayed committed to improving the Fire Service.”

IPSA Board Member and Lt. Bob Marland remembers 9/11/2001

“I was assigned as an Administrative Lt at our Headquarters. I was watching the news and saw the first plane strike the tower. I had a bad feeling that this wasn’t an accident. I continued to watch thinking through possible operational responses if this wasn’t an accident and then I watched the second plane hit. I was assigned to go through all the courts to locate officers and send them back to their units. I was assigned with deploying units to exterior security at the Federal Reserve, City Hall and the Virginia Capital.”

IPSA Board Member and Lt. George Steiner remembers 9/11/2001

“I was living in Chicago in the Wrigleyville neighborhood when 9/11 happened. I remember people leaving the city because we were unsure if there would be any more attacks. The streets were empty, businesses were closed there was an uncomfortable quietness. My wife and I had just started dating a week before 9/11.”

IPSA Board Member Gregory Walterhouse recalls 9/11/2001

“On 9/11 I was Deputy Chief of Operations with the Rochester Hills Fire Department and was in a city staff meeting when the first plane struck the World Trade Center. When the second plane struck the south tower, it was apparent it was a terrorist attack and not knowing the extent immediately secured all city buildings. How public safety trains and responds to incidents was forever changed that day.”

IPSA Board Member Wren Nealy remembers 9/11/2001

“On 9/11, I was at training with the Houston FBI, supporting them as a tactical medic. I remember this vividly when the Supervisory Agent abruptly stopped the firearms training and called in the team. He told us of the attack and called an end to the training. He advised we were all on standby for deployment. The thought of being deployed to ground zero caused everyone to pause. Going home to pack and explain and tell my family I was deploying was difficult. Even though I couldn’t tell them, they had watched the news and knew where I was going. Being in this ready deployment state for what ended up being 24-hours, only to be stood down, was stressful and something I will never forget.”

Working together

Collectively as a nation, we have made significant progress since 9/11 to keep our country safe. This includes improved intelligence collection, information sharing and inter-agency cooperation through Fusion Centers and other means; improved public safety communications, the development of the National Incident Management System, increased funding to state and local governments through the Homeland Security Grant Program and more.

We have also collectively been successful in averting a major terrorist attack on U.S. soil since 9/11. However, our nation must not rest on a false sense of security.

We must remain diligent and continue to collect, analyze and share intelligence information between federal, state and local agencies, and protect critical infrastructure against physical and cyber-attack.

Accomplishing this requires that all public safety disciplines work together cooperatively and synergistically at the federal, state, and local levels as well as internationally with our foreign allies.

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