Did You Know? Remembering First Responders on 9/11
This weekend as we remember September 11, 2001, let us not forget the first responders who rushed into chaos to help.
The September 11 attacks killed 2,996 people and injured more than 6,000 others. Among those who lost their lives were 71 law enforcement officers and 343 firefighters who died in the World Trade Center and on the ground in New York City, one law enforcement officer who died when United Airlines Flight 93 crashed into a field near Shanksville, PA, and 55 military personnel who died at the Pentagon.
On this 15th anniversary of the September 11 attacks, we especially remember those who lost their lives in the line of duty.
Creating a Home for Chester County First Responder
Did you know that nearly 300,000 times a year, someone in Chester county calls 911 for help – help from one of the 43 fire companies, 47 law enforcement agencies, and 32 EMS agencies that serve the 500,000 citizens of Chester County?
According to Chester County Commissioner Terence Farrell, “An emergency response is a combined response where fire, police and EMS work together. It is essential that they have the opportunity to train together.”
For decades there was talk of building a facility where the county’s first responders could train together. The events of 9/11 reinforced this need and helped move the project from idea to reality.
The terrorist attacks emphasized the need nationwide for coordinated efforts among first responders and preparation for worst-case scenarios as well as prompted federal government to give states more money for training.
Mike Grigalonis, COO of the Chester County Economic Development Council (CCEDC) noted that “CCEDC created a 501c3 organization called the Chester County Public Safety Training Foundation to facilitate the project and accept charitable gifts to support the development of the training campus and first responder needs in general.
On September 9, 2012, nearly 11 years after 9/11, the first phase of the Public Safety Training Campus was complete with the opening of an Academic Building that includes office, classrooms, bays, and alternative 911 service.
Two and a half years later, phase two, a four-acre Tactical Village opened on May 15, 2015. With this addition, Chester County became the first in the five-county region to have a comprehensive tactical village where all first responders can train together.
The Tactical Village includes search and rescue buildings, a high-rise training tower and vehicle burn and rescue area, as well as a burn building, a gasoline and oil fire suppression simulator and props to practice hazardous material spill containment.
The final phase is the construction of an indoor firing range that is slated to begin in 2016.
Located in South Coatesville, the Public Safety Training Campus is not just a place to bring first responders together to train, it honors their commitment and sacrifice in the line of duty. Two memorials may be found on its grounds, the first features a steel beam that was originally forged at Lukens Steel in Coatesville and was used in the construction of the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers in New York City.
The memorial was dedicated when the building opened in September 2012 and is prominently displayed in the lobby of the facility’s Academic Building where the beam is flanked by an American flag on the wall and juts upward into a skylight, creating a somber focal point.
The second memorial started to take shape in 2013 when a delegation of Chester County firefighters, police officers, sheriff’s deputies, and emergency medical personnel traveled to Arlington, VA to receive four pieces of limestone that were from the area where American Airlines Flight 77 struck the Pentagon.
Beau Crowding, Deputy Director for Fire Services for Chester County Department of Emergency Services, and part of the delegation, commented: “As we were taking the tour of the memorial museum, I looked around at the men representing all of Chester County’s first responders – fire, police and emergency medical services – and what struck me was the unity that we have as we all work together to keep people safe.
That unity will become stronger as we strain together at the Public Safety Training Campus. It is fitting that the limestone artifact will be placed there, not only as a memorial to those who lost their lives on 9/11 and to honor all first responders who continue to serve, but to remind us of the importance of working together when faced with emergency situations.”
Some small pieces of the limestone artifacts were used to create a plaque that was added to the Tactical Village which opened in May, 2015.
At the dedication ceremony, County Commissioners Terence Farrell, Kathi Cozzone, and Michelle Kichline each placed a wreath at the site. One wreath was in honor of the those who lost their lives on 9/11, another one was for all the responders who lost their lives serving the citizens of Chester County and the third was dedicated to Ed Atkins, former Director of the Department of Emergency Services, who led the department from 1997 until his passing in 2014.
What’s next for the Public Safety Training Campus
Fundraising efforts continue to help finish the Public Safety Training Campus. In addition to the already completed Academic Building and Tactical Village, plans include the creation of an indoor firing range.
Likewise, the memorials to 9/11 and all first responders continue with plans to include artifacts from all three attack sites. Department of Emergency Services staff are in talks to secure soil from the crash site of USAir Flight 93 in Shanksville, PA that would join the steel from Ground Zero and limestone from the Pentagon.