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Somber 9/11 remembrance at Westmorelands Fire Station 20

by: David F. Ashton Westmoreland Fire Station 20 Captain Doug Williams reflects on what “9/11” means to him.

At Portland Fire and Rescue's Station 20, on the sunny afternoon of September 11th, it looked pretty much like any other shift.

But to the firefighters then on duty, and their captain, this - like the nine previous anniversaries of the terrorist attacks on 9/11/2001 - was a day to remember.

'Today is a special day; the only day we're allowed to wear anything other than a non-Bureau issued shirt,' commented Captain Doug Williams. 'That's why I'm wearing this New York Fire Department shirt today.'

But the day meant far more than simply a change in wardrobe, Williams mused. 'For me, remembering '9/11' - 343 brother firefighters went to work that morning, and didn't come out of those towers.'

It matters not if a firefighter is stationed in a nearby town, or across the country, Williams said. 'When you see the firefighters' Maltese cross anywhere in the world, it means the same thing: We've signed on, and we are dedicated to this job. We all know the risks going in. Every one of us. We don't talk about it, we don't think about it. But when the bell rings, we just head out and do our job.

'We've been fortunate, and very blessed, that here in Portland - we have not lost anyone in a long time.'

Williams looked down, and paused for a moment. 'It's a risky business. I don't talk about it with my wife, or my kids. We all know that any day we can go to work, and not go home the next morning. And, we all stand ready to do our duty to save lives and preserve property.

'My job as captain is to make sure the next morning, everyone here walks out the door and goes home. That's how I look at it.'

Upon further reflection, Williams added, 'The other thing that I was thinking about today is that we're still losing a hundred firefighters all over the country every year.

'There's no tribute to those. They die from apparatus accidents, heart attack, building collapse - we don't have a remembrance day for them, like we do for those heroic New York fire crews. Retired guys die after they retire from job-related illnesses; there's no tribute to them. I'm remembering them ALL, today.'