Legionnaires salute Aurora's first responders on 9/11 anniversary

David Riedel
Special to MyTownNEO.com
From left, Bill Vassileff, Police Chief Brian Byard, and Harold Hatridge with some of the pizza American Legion Post 803 offered the city's first responders on the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

We remember. Do you remember?

Do you remember that sunny, warm September morning 19 years ago? It was just a beautiful end-of-summer morning here in Aurora as well as New York City and Washington DC.

What did you think when you saw that second airplane slam into the side of the south tower of the World Trade Center at 9:03 a.m? Then you heard about the Pentagon, then Shanksville, Pa. Were you at work? Were you at school? Were you watching television as workers from the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were running out of the buildings for safety?

Did you see who was running the other way? As thousands of people were running to safety, hundreds of first responders were running into the buildings at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

The 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York City not only became the single deadliest terror attack in human history, they were also the deadliest ever for firefighters, as well as for law enforcement officers in the United States.

Members of Clare K. Eggleston American Legion Post 803 at a prior year's 9/11 memorial ceremony.

In New York alone, 411 emergency workers died as they tried to rescue people and fight fires. This number consisted of 343 firefighters, 23 New York City police officers, 37 New York Port Authority police officers, and eight private emergency medical technicians. These brave first responders were all running into the buildings as the thousands of civilians were running out.

They were doing their jobs. They were doing what they were paid to be doing. They were doing what they loved. And some of them were off duty that perilous morning.

In the weeks just after the attack on September 11, police and rescue workers from around the country took a leave of absence from their jobs and traveled to New York City to help recover bodies from the twisted remains of the Twin Towers.

On Dec. 18, 2001, Congress approved naming September 11 “Patriot Day” to commemorate the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. And, in 2009, Congress named September 11 a National Day of Service and Remembrance.

The Clare K. Eggleston American Legion Post 803 of Aurora salutes the city's first responders on the anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

The Aurora Fire Department consists of Chief David Barnes, Assistant Chief Matthew McBirney, three full-time captains, three full-time lieutenants, nine full-time firefighters, and 32 part-time firefighters.

Our police department consists of Chief Bryan Byard, Lt. Rob Hagquist, Lt. Andy Lumpkins, two Detective Sergeants, one detective, one1 crime prevention officer, one drug task force officer, two school resource officers, 12 full- and part-time communications center employees, four patrol sergeants, 17 patrol officers and one cCanine (Nero).

These first responders cover Aurora’s 24 square miles 24 hours per day, 365 days per year.

Because of the COVID-19 Pandemic, the Clare K. Eggleston American Legion Post 803 of Aurora was not able to hold our annual 9/11 Ceremony and Dignified Flag Disposal at the Sunny Lake 9/11 Memorial this year.

We have been holding the 9/11 Memorial Ceremony at Sunny Lake since 2006. Every year, our local police, fire, and EMT first responders attended the memorial without fail.

Since we did not get to see them this year at the memorial to let them know how much they are appreciated, we showed them our appreciation in a different way.

American Legion Post 803 delivered pizzas for dinner and lunch to the Aurora Police Station and to Fire Station 1 and Fire Station 2. We hope that this small gesture reminds our first responders how much we appreciate them yesterday, today and tomorrow.