By Nathan Pfau, Army Flier Staff WriterSeptember 19, 2013
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (September 19, 2013) -- While hundreds of vigils and ceremonies were being held across the nation to remember those lost during the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001, Fort Rucker's Directorate of Public Safety didn't miss its opportunity to pay its respects.
Members of DPS, along with other Soldiers and civilians, came together in front of the Fort Rucker Fire Station during a ceremony to pay tribute, with a special tradition, to those who lost their lives during the 9/11 attacks.
Lt. Col. Madeline Bondy, provost marshal and director of public safety, spoke during the ceremony and recalled her account of what it was like for her during one of the nation's darkest times.
At the time of the attacks, Bondy said that she and her husband were deployed, so they didn't have to opportunity to be with their children during that time.
"I was just thinking this morning where I was 12 years ago, and I remember I was sitting in a field in a Humvee in Weiden, Germany, when my S-2 got a phone call saying that the towers had been hit," she said with tears in her eyes. "What I was thinking of was where my children were and I wondered if they were OK."
More than 3,000 people lost their lives during the Sept. 11 attacks, including 343 New York firefighters and more than 60 New York City Police officers and port authority police officers.
"The unthinkable attacks of that morning shook our nation, and then in true American form, we stood together in solidarity and support, in prayer and patriotism," said Bondy. "That day, the strength of our citizens overrode the evil of our enemies, and today we remember those that rushed up the stairs while others were running to safety."
A table was set up in front of a fire engine with three helmets -- white, representing the fire chief; red, representing the fire officer; and black representing the firefighter. One of the helmets adorned a patch with the number 343 to represent the number of firefighters lost during the attacks.
On the table also sat a firefighters bell that is traditionally used to call firefighters home after a call to duty, according to Fire Chief Jay Evett.
"There is a tradition that is long standing (in the fire fighting community) -- the ringing of the bell," said Evett. "Today we're going to honor that tradition."
The sounding of the bell is a firefighter's tradition that dates back more than 200 years, said Evett. The sound of the bell signaled the beginning of the day's shift, raised the alarm and summoned firefighters in times of need and signaled the completion of a call.
When a firefighter is lost in the line of duty, it is the toll of the bell that announces the comrade's passing, he added.
"We utilize these traditions as symbols that reflect honor and respect on those who have given so much and served so well," said Evett. "The men and women of today's fire service are confronted with a more dangerous work than ever before … but as our methods change, our goals remain the same -- to save lives and protect property -- sometimes at a terrible cost."
To symbolize the devotion of the firefighters had for their duty, a special signal of three rings of the bell played three times represents the end of the comrade's duty.
A moment of silence followed the ringing of the bell to conclude the ceremony, a ceremony that some, like Jessica Danford, military Family member, said was a good reminder to forge ahead through dark times.
"I think it's so important to remember those who not only gave their lives to save others, but those innocents that were lost during the attacks as well," she said. "We should learn from events like this so that we know not to take things for granted, and to see how important it is to help each other out and stick together as a nation."