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'Never forget, 343': Sumter first responders remember victims of Sept. 11 attacks

BY SHELBIE GOULDING
shelbie@theitem.com
Posted 9/12/19

First responders gathered around the American flag as it hung half-staff outside the Sumter Fire Department's headquarters Wednesday morning to pay their respects and "never forget" the tragedy that happened 18 years ago.

An annual memorial …

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'Never forget, 343': Sumter first responders remember victims of Sept. 11 attacks

Posted

First responders gathered around the American flag as it hung half-staff outside the Sumter Fire Department's headquarters Wednesday morning to pay their respects and "never forget" the tragedy that happened 18 years ago.

An annual memorial service assembled by the department was made to remember those of 9/11: the people who died, the people injured, the families affected and the first responders who ran toward the danger.

"Evil prevailed that day, and a lot of people died," Sumter Fire Chief Karl Ford said. "We wanted to do our little part. It wasn't much, but we don't want to let it go."

On Sept. 11, 2001, militants associated with al-Qaida hijacked four airplanes and carried out suicide attacks against the U.S.

Two planes flew into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, while a third plane hit the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and the fourth crashed in a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

Almost 3,000 people were killed and thousands more were injured during the attacks.

"Our motto in the fire department is 'Never forget, 343,'" Ford said, "but we just remember everyone that died."

A memorial of two 75-pound pieces of steel from the Twin Towers was placed beside the flagpole at the fire department's headquarters in 2011. Another memorial also honors the 343 New York City firefighters who were killed on 9/11.

"We want to make sure that every year on 9/11 that we do remember those that have passed, to include the family members that continue to suffer from this event, as well as a reminder for us as first responders," said Joey Duggan, division chief at Sumter Fire Department.

Duggan said a firefighter working with the department turned 1 year old two days before Sept. 11, 2001. He only knows the 9/11 attacks by history, not by memory.

Hunter Cockerill, 19, has worked with the Sumter Fire Department since Aug. 28.

He said only knowing the tragedy through history is different than how others remember it.

"When being that little, you didn't know it was going to be one of the deadliest and saddest days in the world," Cockerill said.

Compared to his older coworkers, he said, their perspective is completely different from his.

"You definitely feel like you can't relate, to be honest," Cockerill said. "They were more in the moment."