KINGMAN – It was 17 years ago today, Sept. 11, 2001, that the most horrific terrorist attack in U.S. history occurred. Hijackers took control of four planes and flew them into the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon, with another crashing in a Pennsylvania field thanks to the heroic efforts of passengers on board Flight 93. The bravery Americans displayed that day, both civilians and first responders, even now fills people throughout the country with solemn remembrance and gratitude.
Chief Jake Rhoades of the Kingman Fire Department, like many others, recalls watching the events of the day unfold.
“So on that day I was actually off duty and just happened to be watching the news, saw it happen, saw it unfold, and just as many others felt it was just shock and awe of what was going on,” he said.
He said 343 firefighters and 71 law enforcement personnel were lost doing their duty to protect civilians and get them to safety, even though first responders were aware of the risk they were taking in entering the towers.
“Their job was to get people out, to save as many lives as they could,” Rhoades said. “And on a day where almost 3,000 lives were lost, without their efforts how many more would have been lost?”
KPD’s Deputy Chief Rusty Cooper said the loss of civilian life took its toll on him, but that the loss of first responders “obviously hurt me on a different level.”
“It was a little more personal because I can understand the commitment to duty of the firefighters and other first responders,” he said. “They obviously had no knowledge that the towers were going to come down, but they did know there was a danger and they upheld the oath of their office and went in to save people.”
Rhoades and Cooper both said witnessing the courage of those individuals filled them with a sense of pride for their professions. Rhoades said that while New York is far away, through his interaction with different departments and agencies he knows that any first responder would make that same sacrifice for their community.
“It’s the same men and women, the same characteristics (will to serve, courage) no matter where you are, whether it’s New York, Florida, Arizona, Kingman,” Rhoades said. “It’s all the same people.”
Rhoades said Sept. 11, 2001, changed everything from first-responder funding to the community’s impression of the fire and police departments even in Kingman.
“Even the smallest communities, they realized the sacrifices that their local men and women are willing to make for them,” the chief said. “Sure, it’s not a 100-story building, but it is a residential structure fire and these guys are willing to give their lives for it. And people saw that, that was a result of that day.”
“We’ve taken some hits as of late, but I’m still proud to serve my community and I know first responders are proud to serve their communities and would sacrifice their lives in service of their communities,” Cooper said.
Rhoades actually attended funerals for some of those firefighters lost doing their duty that day.
“I was part of an honor guard that was flown in for that, and I participated in a few of those and they were rough,” he said. “But the cameras were there, and so it kind of brought more emphasis on what these individuals do, what they do in every community across the country.”
The City of Kingman and its fire and police departments will hold a 9/11 Remembrance Ceremony from 7 to 7:30 a.m. today at Firefighters Memorial park, 2201 Detroit Ave. Cooper believes remembering the events of Sept. 11 is important, as it “causes everybody to consider something larger than they are, something greater than they are.”
“It’s a good time to reset your values and moral compass and focus on what’s really important,” Cooper said.
He added that he’s proud to serve with local first responders such as the individuals in his own department, the Kingman Fire Department, and the Mohave County Sheriff’s Office. Rhoades also stressed the importance of keeping 9/11 fresh in our minds.
“If we can honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice on one of the most important days in our history, that’s pretty important,” he said.
To those who gave their lives, and to their families, Cooper expressed his gratitude. He thanked them for their sacrifices, adding that his prayers are with them.
“And my prayer would be that God would always bless you and comfort you through your loss,” Cooper said. “And it’s because of the sacrifice of your loved one and others that we enjoy freedom and liberty today.”