Fire department tribute

An American flag waves from the ladder of a fire truck and another hangs on a light pole Saturday in Abilene, the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

Across the nation, people remember and honor the lives lost and affected by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. While many people were able to flee from the dust and smoke, first responders ran straight for it and did their duty. Inside the 2,977 lives lost due to 9/11, the number includes: 343 New York City firefighters, 37 New York and New Jersey police officers, 23 NYPD officers, eight emergency medical technicians, three New York State court officers and one New York Fire patrolman. 

Local first responders have their own stories of 9/11 and how they commemorate all the work those first responders who answered the call that morning. 


Abilene Fire Chief Kale Strunk 

When asked where he was during the attacks on 9/11, Strunk decided that the day was not about him and more important to focus on the ones from the day. 

“With all due respect,  I feel that day is about them, not me,” he said. 

Strunk led the Abilene Fire Department with their tribute to 9/11 and the first responders, which was located at North Buckeye on Saturday morning. 

“We as a Department were honored to be able to pay respect to all the brave men and women who paid the ultimate price trying to save thousands of people that day 20 years ago,” Strunk said.  “ 9/11 is a day that should never be forgotten.  There was lots of positive interaction with the public Saturday, from folks driving by honking to stopping wanting to make a donation or just telling us thanks for our service.  That is a good sign lots of people still remember.  I would also like to thank Greg Davis for allowing us to use his lot to set up on.”


Kansas Highway Patrol Trooper Ben Gardner 

On 9/11, Gardner remembered sitting with other members of McPherson county sheriff department at a restaurant. After discussing the previous night’s work, they left the restaurant and one of the deputies wife told them a plane hit one of the Twin Towers. 

“I don’t think any of us really realize what was to come that it was just a notable moment,” Gardner said. “It was gonna be difficult for any first responder in the area, but they’d get through it because they were highly trained.”

Gardner uses the day of Sept. 11 to remember and honor all those first responders who answered the call that day. 

“I just feel very, very proud,” Gardner said. “I think of those that were there that day and anyone that was directly affected all across our nation. With all the planes that were being required to land all across our nation and how first responders had to go to their local airports to accommodate all of the travelers.”

“The first thing, I think of is just pride and the worry of the difficulties, the difficulties that they were experiencing and knowing what we experienced from time to time is at such a smaller scale,” Gardner added. “I recognize that what they handled that day was significant in so many ways.”


Abilene Assistant Police Chief Jason Wilkins 

On 9/11, Wilkins can remember sitting in his human anatomy class at Cloud County Community College as a freshman. 

“I remember nobody really saying anything to one another, just kind of walking around like zombies leaving class that day and going back to the dorms to just sit in front of the TV and watch the news for the rest of the day,” Wilkins said. 

Wilkins uses the day of Sept. 11 to remember all those who went to work that day with no idea what would happen. 

“It’s important that every 9/11 to think not only about the first responders who risked their lives every day,” Wilkins said. “I think about all the individuals that went to work that morning or boarded the plane that morning expecting it to be like any other day.”


Dickinson County Sheriff Jerry Davis 

On 9/11, Davis sat inside his office at the criminal investigations department and the field administrator told him that an airplane hit one of the World Trade Center. 

“I immediately thought it was an accident, a small plane,” Davis said.  “ But, watching the television downstairs, we saw the second terrorist attack.”

Davis wants to remind people that it is in the nature of First Responders to run to the danger, like on 9/11. 

“I think it’s important to acknowledge the fact that when horrible things happen, law enforcement and fire run towards,” Davis said. 

“It’s our nature,” Davis added. “It’s our nature to report. But that’s exactly what was going on that day, law enforcement and fire were doing their duty and running towards the danger.”


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