Essay: 'We also must remember the first responders who survived'

My name is Lieutenant Roger Bayne, Jr. I have been a firefighter/paramedic with Addison Fire Protection District No. 1 for 25 years. Giving back to my community has always been something I have been very passionate about.

About 10 years ago, I knew I wanted to do something more, something bigger than only supporting my local community. I was asked by a friend to get involved with the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, which honors firefighters who have paid the ultimate sacrifice of laying down their life while in the line of duty.

I knew this was my calling to support not only my local community, but to also be involved in helping my firefighter family that crosses state lines. I signed up that day, and for the past 10 years I have had the honor and privilege to be a volunteer as an Honor Guard Commander, representing the Addison Fire Protection District No. 1 and the Associated Fire Firefighters of Illinois Honor Guards.

I have since had the humbling experience to attend the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation-Memorial Weekend to deliver the United States flag to the family of a fallen FDNY member who died from cancer after his rescue efforts at ground zero on Sept. 11, 2001.

I have also had the amazing opportunity to co-chair the Chicagoland Memorial Golf Outing, and now the Chicagoland Memorial 9/11 Stair Climb with Laura Haiden, Glenside Fire Protection District. We have helped raise over $350,000 for the foundation to give back to fallen firefighters' families.

I give back to the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation because they assist the families of the firefighters who have lost their lives in the line of duty protecting the community they have served.

I remember how my day went on 9/11. I was on shift at the Addison Fire Protection District No. 1. The day started as usual. I got up and drove into work at 0700. The weather was amazing — 80 degrees with bright blue skies and not a cloud in sight.

I started work at 0800. It was business as usual — coffee and vehicle checks, along with the daily briefing. I started to get ready for the daily drill scheduled at 0900 when the news interrupted at 0846 and said something hit the World Trade Center in New York, possibly a plane having problems.

We all watched in horror as the fire intensified and the chaos started. As the news was being reported, we watched the second plane fly into the other World Trade Center tower. At this point, we knew this was not an accident.

Phone calls were made to the county and Chicago Fire Department, as they were on high alert having several high-profile towers. We watched with great sadness as we learned American Airlines flights 11 and 175 were used as weapons to crash into the north and south towers.

I watched the first tower collapse and felt the loss of many, including the FDNY's bravest, who rushed into that building for suppression and rescue.

My heart sank even further when the second tower collapsed. I knew there would be many lives lost from that devastation.

We then learned about American Airlines Flight 77 crashing into the Pentagon and United Airlines Flight 93 crashing in Pennsylvania.

Chicago O'Hare International Airport is one of the busiest in the nation, and Addison is right in the flight path of one of those busy runways. It wasn't long before all air traffic was grounded, all airplanes in the air were diverted and O'Hare was closed.

Addison went on soft lockdown, not knowing what was next. I remember standing outside the station and there was not a plane in sight, then watching the U.S. military fly over with F16s, patrolling the skies of Chicago.

We continued to watch the live coverage as it unfolded. That day forever changed my fire service career. More than 2,997 victims lost their lives that day, including 343 FDNY firefighters, the chaplain, two paramedics, 23 police officers of the FDNY, eight EMTs and paramedics from private emergency service providers, 37 Port Authority Police, and one patrolman from New York Fire Patrol.

As we reflect and remember all those who lost their lives on that tragic day, we also must remember the first responders who survived. Unfortunately, to this day, 20 years later, the aftermath of that horrific event still has a large impact on our first responders who were at ground zero.

The number of losses keeps going up. According to the World Trade Center Health Department Program, 3,496 deaths have been attributed to a variety of illnesses related to the aftermath of the attacks.

It is estimated 400,000 people were exposed to toxic dust and other debris when the towers fell. Former New York City firefighters are still losing their lives, bringing the total number after the World Trade Center attacks to 227.

Their deaths are now included as line-of duty deaths. That means the heroes of New York City firefighter families will now get full honors for the sacrifices their loved ones made on that horrific day.

Each year the names of the firefighters who've died from illnesses related to the attacks will be honored and their names will be added to the Memorial Wall at FDNY headquarters.

This year, on Sept. 11, 2021, the Chicagoland Memorial 9/11 Stair Climb will be held in remembrance of all who have lost their lives and continue to perish from this terrible attack.

This event will be held at Soldier Field in Chicago, and all proceeds will go toward continuing to assist the families of the firefighters who have lost their lives in the line of duty.

The United States Congress created the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation to lead a nationwide effort in remembrance of America's fallen firefighters. Since 1992, the tax-exempt, nonprofit foundation has developed and expanded programs to honor our fallen fire heroes and assist their families and co-workers.

The foundation is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization located in Emmitsburg, Maryland. It is registered as a corporation in the state of Maryland. The foundation receives funding through private donations from caring individuals, organizations, corporations, and foundations.

The money raised from the Chicagoland Memorial 9/11 Stair Climb will assist surviving families of the FDNY with the FDNY Counseling Unit, and will also support families here in Illinois for our Fire Hero Family Programs.

Lt. Roger D. Bayne, Jr. Courtesy of Lt. Roger D. Bayne, Jr.
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