Sarasota County first responders remember 9/11 attacks

A ceremony held at a fire station united community members to recall the lives lost and the...
A ceremony held at a fire station united community members to recall the lives lost and the bravery following the horrible attack on the United States.(Shane Battis)
Published: Sep. 11, 2022 at 12:20 PM EDT
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SARASOTA COUNTY, Fla. (WWSB) - Inside Sarasota County Fire Station #9, the memory of countless first responders live on.

Members of the Sarasota County Fire Department, alongside other first responder organizations gathered Sunday morning to remember all the lives lost on Sept. 11, 2001 with a service reflecting on that day. Rich Collins, the county’s emergency services director, led the memorial.

His speech took listeners back to that tragic day as millions were glued to their televisions watching the attacks unfold, “And wonder if the people that I knew that were on the department and were they there that day,” Collins told the room.

Sadly, Collins did know someone there that day.

He told the story of a firefighter with the New York City Fire Department named Andy Fredricks, a 21-year-old veteran in the department who had a passion for training. Fredricks and Collins had become friends over the years at various

Collins explained Fredricks was one of the first to go into the World Trade Center, but never made it back out. It’s sad for Collins to think of losing his friends years later, but his story also serves a stark reminder of what first responders risk every day.

“That every day we come to work is a gift to serve our community,” he said. “Part of that gift may be we give our lives.”

Twenty-one years later, victims and heroes of the 9/11 attacks are being remembered with ceremonies performed by the honor guard as well a series of speeches and prayers. The displays bring forward strong memories for many who are thinking of what they saw that day and the people still missing from their lives.

It’s difficult, but Sarasota County Acting Fire Chief Mike Hartley affirms that it’s necessary.

“Awards tarnish, accolades die, but this memory has to continue,” he told the crowd in a speech.

Part of that memory is now physical in Sarasota. Speakers presented a large chunk of metal on display, a piece of the World Trade Center taken from the ashes of the attacks. First responders explaining the artifact will serve not only as a reminder of the lives lost, but the bravery that united our country in the days that followed.

Heroism that lives in the hearts of all first responders who answer the call when disaster strikes.

“That’s why when you wake up, you press your shirt, you put on your Class A uniform, you think about the sacrifice that took place years before we even were able to wear a uniform,” Hartley said.

Sarasota County plans to hold a similar memorial service on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks again next year.