Members of the Watertown Fire Department stood at attention for a moment of silence Monday morning to pay respect to the 343 firefighters who died 16 years ago when the Twin Towers came down.
During the brief ceremony, which has become a tradition at Watertown Fire Headquarters on the anniversary of 9/11, Firefighter Paul Locker rang the bell on a fire engine to mark the final alarm for the lost firefighters.
Locker, a 29-year veteran firefighter, said he was working with an ambulance company on Sept. 11, 2001.
“I got in at 8 a.m. and heard about the first plane. Originally people thought it was a small aircraft that got confused and had an accident,” Locker said. “We picked up a patient and they had a TV in the room and we saw the second plane hit. Then we knew it was a something serious.”
Watching the Twin Towers come down is something he will never forget.
“The whole feeling of emptiness when the first tower fell,” Locker said. “I felt like they were invincible.”
He also realized that there must be New York firefighters inside.
“I knew how they work and I knew they would be climbing the stairs, and don’t use the elevators,” Locker said.
During the ceremony, one of Watertown’s newest firefighters read the Firefighters Prayer. Taylor Davis, who joined the WFD on Sept. 3, said he was in elementary school on 9/11.
“We did a lockdown in school,” Davis said.
Marking the anniversary is important to Davis.
“There were so many firefighters, police, EMS, and civilians who lost their lives,” Davis said.
The ceremony outside of Fire Headquarters on Main Street drew a small crowd of people. Salem’s John Lequin was in town taking care of his young nephew and brought him to the ceremony.
“It is important to make sure people know all the sacrifices those guys made that day, and the women,” Lequin said.
Retired Watertown Firefighter Thomas Walsh comes to the ceremony each year, as long as he is healthy enough to do so. He had just recently left the WFD and attended some of the firefighters’ funerals in New York. The day was tragic for the whole country, Walsh said.
“It was like a second Pearl Harbor,” Walsh said. “Three thousand or more people died.”
Walsh’s wife Peggy said she hoped to see a bigger crowd for the ceremony.
“I think there needs to be more publicity,” she said. “I called the fire station to find out when it was. You should never have to search for memorial events, one honoring those who passed away – 343 firefighters.”