Although it has been 18 years, the annual arrival of 9/11 continues to shock and sadden us as we are taken back to that horrible day and its aftermath. Officially, 2,977 people lost their life that day when terrorists flew hijacked planes into the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon near Washington, D.C. A fourth plane was head toward the nation's capital when brave passengers brought it down in a rural area in western Pennsylvania.

The pain of 9/11 continues. Since that day, countless others have suffered and died as a result of breathing the toxic fumes left by the collapse of the World Trade Center towers.

Among those we remembered last week on the 9/11 anniversary are the heroic first responders, who rushed into the burning buildings to save as many people as possible. On that terrible day, deaths included 343 firefighters -- including a chaplain and two paramedics -- from the New York City Fire Department, 37 police officers from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, 23 officers from the New York City Police Department, eight emergency medical technicians and paramedics from private emergency medical services, and one patrolman from the New York Fire Patrol. They died doing what they trained so hard for, what every first responder trains constantly for.

To honor the 411 first responders who died when the Twin Towers collapsed, College Station and Bryan firefighters and firefighters from area departments participated in memorial climbs equal to the number of floors in the World Trade Center towers -- and they did so in full turn-out gear on a hot Texas day.

College Station firefighter Carter Hall said, "We want to honor their memory, cherish what they did and the sacrifices they made on that day. It's a reminder to continue to uphold the values of the fire and law enforcement service and an opportunity for the community to have an outward way to express their appreciation for people who continue to serve."

College Station Fire Chief Jonathan McMahan said,"It's not only reflecting on the lives that were lost that day, but the emergency service workers who are still dying from 9/11-related injuries."

The day after the 9/11 remembrance ceremonies, activities were held to kick off next month's National Night Out. Many families participated, allowing them to visit with first responders. It was a great way for children to learn about those who work to keep us safe every day.

Last week was a chance to pay tribute to the first responders who gave their life on 9/11. It also was a way to honor our local and area firefighters and law enforcement officers who train hard so they can continue to protect us day in and day out.

We thank them for their service and we ask God's blessings upon them.

We are so glad they are here.

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