The somber ringing of the last alarm sounded across several North Shore communities Wednesday morning to mark the 18th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
The nation paused to remember the victims of the attacks, including the first responders who ran toward destruction and chaos that day to save lives.
The ceremonial ringing of the alarm is a 200-year-old tradition, said Lynn Fire Chief Stephen Archer. A bell was traditionally rung to communicate the “all clear” at the end of a call. It has become a symbol to announce the death of a fellow firefighter who has returned home for the final time, he said.
In 2001, nearly 3,000 people were killed when terrorist-piloted planes slammed into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania.
Among the casualties were hundreds of first responders.
“The courage, the determination, the selflessness to run towards that danger, not knowing what was going to happen or really what was taking place, all they thought about was trying to save lives,” said Peabody Mayor Edward Bettencourt at Peabody’s Public Safety Memorial. “I just think that is amazing and that is why I have so much respect for the people who wear the uniform.”
Police and firefighters lined up for a ceremonial salute Wednesday morning at the Lynn Fire Department headquarters in remembrance of the lives lost during the attacks.
“It’s so important to us that we do this,” said Archer. “It’s important to us as firefighters. It’s important to the community. It’s important to the nation as a whole that we stop every year and just remember what went on 18 years ago and how that impacted all of us. To see the community support of days like this is very important to us.”
The American flag was raised and lowered, a prayer was read for the victims and the bell was rung.
“It’s humbling,” said Archer. “It really is. It’s humbling and it causes us to stop and think about what we do.”
Across the Causeway, Johnson Elementary School students stood silently as they watched Nahant firefighters perform their own ceremony. Principal Kevin Andrews said none of them were old enough to remember the tragedy.
“Thanks for coming, kids,” said Acting Fire Chief Dean Palombo as they quietly returned to school. “You’ve got to remember this.”