It seems unreal that two decades have passed since the terrorist attack that destroyed the Twin Towers in New York and tragically claimed thousands of lives, said Doug Eggiman.
Like most Americans who were of age on Sept. 11, 2001, Eggiman, the chief at Midway Fire Rescue, vividly remembers where he was and what he was doing as he watched the events unfold on the news. The department had been having a celebration that morning at its headquarters station. It was a sendoff for former Chief Mike Mock, who was moving up to the position of Georgetown County Emergency Services Director. As the news broke that the first plane had hit, “everything just sort of stopped,” Eggiman recalled.
“Everybody piled into the day room and turned on the TV. We were just sort of watching in shock,” he said. He doesn’t have words for the feelings he had watching the second plane hit and then watching the towers collapse. “When that happened, you just knew that every single person in that building was gone,” he said.
The staff and volunteers at Midway will come together on the morning of the 20th anniversary of those attacks to again mourn all those who died that day, including more than 400 first responders — 343 of whom were firefighters. They invite members of the public to join them. Midway will host a remembrance ceremony at its headquarters station at St. Paul Place in Litchfield beginning at 9 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 11. The event will be outside in front of the 9/11 memorial that stands in front of the firehouse. All are welcome, Eggiman said.
The ceremony will open with a welcome and the Pledge of Allegiance, followed by a prayer by Midway Chaplain Will Keith. Staff will also talk about the monument at the station and how it came to be. The ceremony will close with a tolling of the bells.
“For a lot of people, and firefighters in particular, this day and the feelings that come with it are very personal and private,” Eggiman said. “But I think there are some people who will appreciate a chance to come together and remember and grieve as a community.”
As the anniversary has drawn nearer, Eggiman said he has seen an increase in amount of traffic at the memorial in front of the station. “We’ve had more people stop by and look at it this week than we have in a while,” he said. “We used to see people walking up to it all the time and we’d often see a coin or card, a flower or a rock or something someone had left there. We haven’t seen that in a while, so the increase tells me it’s really on people’s minds again with the anniversary approaching.”
Eggiman said he hopes the ceremony at Midway this year will help some people through what is a hard day for so many and may be a learning opportunity for those too young to remember the attacks.
“That was such an incredibly significant day for our nation and the world, and especially for the fire service,” Eggiman said. “I hope that we never forget. And for the fire service, it’s a reminder of why we’re here and what we’re willing to do for the people we serve.”