Chief Terrazas Delivers Remarks at 9-11 Remembrance Ceremony

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

A 23-ton nearly 22-foot tall steel column at the Los Angeles Fire Department training center, once part of the lobby structure from the World Trade Center in New York, served as a fitting backdrop for Los Angeles civic and community leaders and special guests, who gathered with friends of the LAFD on September 11, 2014 for a National Day of Service and Remembrance ceremony in Elysian Park.

At the ceremony, Los Angeles Fire Chief Ralph M. Terrazas delivered the following remarks:

"Good morning Mayor Garcetti, Chief Beck, FDNY Lt. Paul Geidel, dignitaries, elected officials and guests. Thirteen years after our nation was attacked, the events of September 11, 2001, may be fading in the minds of many Americans. But for those of us who spend our lives in the service of others; be it in the fire service, law enforcement, or the military, the memories of the terrorist attacks that took so many lives remain fresh.

The men and women of the LAFD remember the 343 New York City firefighters and paramedics killed that day while rushing in to those two doomed buildings as everyone else was rushing to get out. We remember the 23 NYPD officers and 37 Port Authority Police officers killed. We remember the 125 civilians and military personnel killed at the Pentagon. And we remember the nearly 3,000 civilians who perished in the towers and on those four airliners that day.

There is a distinct feeling you get as a firefighter just a few times in your career. It’s the feeling of arriving at the scene of an incident and your sixth sense telling you ‘this one is going to be dangerous and you might not make it home.’ I have no doubt the men and women who responded to the World Trade Center that day had that same feeling as they got off their rigs and out of their patrol cars. They had that feeling and they went ahead anyway; many of them to a certain death.

On the morning of September 11, FDNY Battalion Chief Joseph Pfeiffer was the initial incident commander at the Twin Towers. In the lobby of Tower 1, Chief Pfeifer gave orders to arriving firefighters, including to the lieutenant of FDNY Engine 33. He told the lieutenant to take Engine 33’s crew up to the 70th floor of the burning building, an order that was carried out immediately. That lieutenant was Kevin Pfeifer, Battalion Chief’s Pfeifer’s brother. Lieutenant Kevin Pfeifer died that day and his brother, who survived, never saw him again. This is the meaning of sacrifice. This is the meaning of selflessness. This is truly the meaning of service.

As the years since nine-eleven continue to pass, as they always will, what bigger lessons can we take with us? What can we hold close besides the memories of the heroes, all of them, civilian and sworn, who died on that terrible day? We can hold the idea of service. The idea of giving a small piece of us back, as we remember what these heroes tried to do for the victims of a senseless terrorist attack. As firefighters, we serve every time we put on our uniform and many of us spend our days off serving our friends, our family, our neighbors, our communities, and our nation. What better way to honor the memory of the fallen than to commit to service?

On a day we gather to remember we should also pledge to serve in whatever meaningful way we can. For in service we can find resiliency. The section of the fallen World Trade Center that stands here in memory and tribute of that horrible day is also a symbol of resiliency. It is a reminder that Americans will remember, rebuild, and continue to serve their country in times of need and in times of crisis.

The LAFD will also continue to serve; to be there whenever Angelenos call us; and to never forget the ultimate sacrifices that were made on September 11, 2001. Thank you."

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