UK firefighters and control staff commemorated the 9/11 tragedy with a minute’s silence across the country, at fire stations, fire controls and other fire service workplaces.
They fell silent at 13.46 – the time in the UK when the first plane impacted the North Tower of the World Trade Center.
The disaster holds particular poignancy for firefighters. 343 out of the 412 emergency workers killed were firefighters, and many more firefighters have since suffered from diseases likely linked to the toxic substances present at the site, and other health issues linked to the disasters.
The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has also written to its sister union in the USA and Canada, the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF), to express solidarity on the anniversary of the attacks, particularly in relation to the IAFF’s continuing work fighting for those affected by 9/11.
Fire Brigades Union general secretary Matt Wrack said “We extend solidarity and our sympathies to the family, co-workers and friends of all those who died on that horrendous day, and particularly commemorate the firefighters who passed away. This tragedy was and remains particularly shocking for firefighters everywhere, given that so many firefighters were killed. It is a stark reminder of the risks that firefighters can face across the globe”.
He went on to say “It’s also worth noting that 9/11 is continuing to kill firefighters today. Toxic contaminants present at ground zero have likely caused disease in thousands of firefighters, and killed hundreds. Authorities in every country need to be conscious of the constant threat of contaminants to firefighters. We mourn the firefighters who have passed away as a result of this aspect of 9/11, and extend our sympathies to those who are suffering today”.
Immediately after the disaster the FBU sent its condolences and support to the International Association of Fire Fighters. Then-general secretary Andy Gilchrist also said that “we send our heartfelt feelings of sympathy to the families of the men and women killed”, and stated that the deaths were “a shocking reminder of the risks that firefighters take… the world over”.
Toxic contaminants causing firefighter disease is an issue on both sides of the Atlantic. Here, the Fire Brigades Union has just launched its DECON campaign, which aims to train firefighters in techniques which will mitigate the effect of these contaminants.