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Madison Fire and Rescue Chief David Bailey (second from left), Deputy Fire Chief Brandy Williams (right) and Captain Ryan Gentry (left) with Captain Brandon Burgess, Firefighter Parker Hill, Driver/Engineer Jeff Bass, Driver/Engineer Bryant Smith, and Driver/Engineer Jonathan Martin.

NYC firefighters’ bravery on 9/11 still impresses Madison fire captain

Note: This article was published originally on Sept. 11, 2011, 10 years ago. It is still very relevant today as we look back on 9-11 twenty years later.

MADISON – On the tenth anniversary of enemy attacks in New York City and Washington D.C., Captain Russ Kennington with Madison Fire and Rescue Department explained his assessment of first responders in rescue and recovery.

“How can anyone put on paper what Sept. 11, 2001, represents?” Kennington said.

“After all, can anyone really portray the unimaginable hatred of that day? Can I, as a writer, adequately describe the desperation felt by many Americans as the events of that day unfolded? How can I possibly, on a piece of paper, show the acts of heroism that were exhibited by so many that morning?” he said.

Kennington, a career firefighter, admitted he was not trained as a writer, and he was unsure if he could document his personal views. However, he knew that he must try to express his thoughts.

At that time, the current generation of Americans grew up on Sept. 11, 2011, Kennington said. “I don’t think the average American had really realized, until then, how our planet had become one world. I can assure you that hardly anyone, outside of our intelligence community, woke up that morning with any idea that the ideology of a small group, in a faraway country, could have the kind of impact on our world that was shown on 9/11.”

As the day’s events unfolded, Kennington remembered people’s faces, showing not only the day’s horror but also a look of disbelief. “I know (my face) did. It was hard to believe that what we were seeing could actually happen,” he said. “I can distinctly remember the desire to do something, anything, but being confronted with the simple fact that I couldn’t. What I did know, as a firefighter, was that the New York City Fire Department could.”

“I remember the pride I felt for my profession as I saw the firefighters heading up the stairs of the twin towers,” Kennington said. “I recall thinking that, if I were still in those towers, these are the guys I would want coming to get me.”

“Many of the faces I was seeing ascend those stairs had already hugged or shook hands with their friends who were there, because they knew, deep down inside, that this was different and that they may not make it out alive. Unlike the men who took those planes, these firefighters didn’t sign up to die that day,” he said.

Kennington was thoroughly impressed that none of the firefighters refused to advance to the upper floors, although aware of imminent danger that they would meet. “That day, 343 of these heroes died. It is hard to believe that it has been 10 years since these men lost their lives, and yet they still continue to influence the commitment and pride of fire service organizations across this country today,” he said.

“It has been said that time heals. Even with something as big as 9/11, this is somewhat true,” Kennington said. “In all, 2,976 families lost someone that day. The healing process will last a lifetime for them, as they live with 9/11 every single day. I made a commitment 10 years ago to ‘Never Forget.’”

“These thoughts are my attempt to honor that commitment. I hope you will join me,” Kennington said.

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