Remembering 9/11: Local firefighters keep the vigil 18 years later

2,977 people were killed. 343 of those people were firefighters. Today, firefighters in Southern Oregon are making sure those men and women are not forgotten.

Posted: Sep 11, 2019 3:48 AM
Updated: Sep 11, 2019 2:53 PM

MEDFORD, Ore. -- Today marks the 18th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. 

Two thousand nine hundred and seventy seven people were killed. And 343 of those people were firefighters. Today, firefighters in Southern Oregon are making sure those men and women are not forgotten. 

Firefighters at Medford Fire-Rescue remember that day vividly. Some said they wanted to run to New York to help their brothers and sisters that day. 

"I remember at 6 o'clock in the morning my captain came running down," said Captain David Ackles, from Medford Fire-Rescue. "He got up early and he came running down the hallway. He banged on our doors and said, 'You need to get out to the living room. America's changing right now.'"

Each year, Medford Fire-Rescue privately honors those 343 firefighters who were lost on 9/11. Firefighters put on their full uniform. That's about 50 pounds of gear. Then, they climb ten flights of stairs at the Rogue Valley Manor. Medford Fire-Rescue has been involved in this tradition since 2002. 

"This way, the fire service, the police service, the port authority can still remember what happened that day," said Ackles. "Or remember what was given that day. Because all was given that day by some."

This year, firefighters from all across Southern Oregon will be participating in the stair climb. Again, this is a private event. 

Firefighters said before 9/11, they came to work at a fire station for one reason -- to help people. This motivation didn't change after 9/11 and it spans across generations of firefighters. 

Hundreds of people have expressed interest in joining the Medford department since 9/11. Firefighters all go through training and dedicate their lives to putting out fires, big and small. Captain David Ackles said that 9/11 did not sway his passion for firefighting. 

"You've chosen that profession or it's chosen you," said Ackles. "You're going to live it the rest of your life. People don't typically get into this career and leave it right away. It's very few. You're really determined to get here. That didn't change what I wanted to do that day on 9/11. It made me want to be better at what I do."

If firefighting has chosen you, as Captain Ackles said, you should do some research. City departments handle different types of fires than rural departments. Above all, Captain Ackles said to dig deep and understand why you want to be a firefighter. 

Giving back to local fire departments

Medford Fire-Rescue said they do not need donations right now, but there are other ways you can help. 

If you are looking to give back today, you could donate to the National Fallen Firefighters Organization. It is a non-profit focused on honoring fallen firefighters and their families. You can make a donation in honor of anyone, even your local fire department. 

"In Medford, I think the best way we get supported is with a smile and a wave as we drive down the road realizing that we're there for them," said Ackles.

You can also give your local fire department a call. They will be able to tell you if they need donations or if you can volunteer in some way. 

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