Remembering Firefighters’ Service on 9/11, Locally and in Israel

JNF, the Embassy of Israel and Krieger Schecheter Day School’s fourth graders commemorate 9/11 at the Pikesville Volunteer Fire Company Station 32 on Monday. (Photo by Erica Rimlinger)

The Jewish National Fund, the Embassy of Israel and Krieger Schechter Day School’s fourth-grade students joined firefighters in Pikesville to commemorate 9/11 and commend first responders for their bravery. JNF presented the Pikesville Volunteer Fire Company Station 32 with a plaque bearing an image of JNF’s 9/11 Living Memorial in Jerusalem.

“This special monument in Jerusalem is a testament to the deep connection between the State of Israel and the U.S., and it is the only place outside the U.S. that recognizes the names of all the people killed on 9/11,” said Anne Greenspoon, JNF’s director of community engagement.

Capt. Scott Goldstein reminded the group of the 343 firefighters who died on 9/11 and the 159 additional firefighters who died later from injuries and illnesses sustained that day. Sixteen years ago, he said, firefighters and first responders “ran into burning buildings that others were running out of.”

Stephen Sindler, a career member of fire department in Woodlawn who also volunteers at the Pikesville station, said ceremonies such as these on 9/11 “bring us together as one.” Sindler said he “grew up hanging around the [Pikesville] station. My father and brother worked here.” He said that before 9/11 he’d been “already planning on” joining the volunteer force, but the tragedies on 9/11 compelled him to join immediately.

Rabbi Moshe Schwartz, head of Krieger Schechter Day School and emcee for the event, said his experience on the subway in Lower Manhattan as the first tower was hit changed the course of his life as well. After that day, he said: “I rescinded my application to law school and went to rabbinical school.”

During the ceremony Schwartz played the shofar, noting its traditional use as a “warning of danger and call to action, to help,” and likened it to the first responders’ roles and actions on 9/11 and every day they serve the community.

Students from Krieger Schechter Day School’s fourth grade read thank-you letters and presented them to the firefighters. One letter read: “Dear First Responders, Thank you for saving everyone from fires. You don’t say: ‘I don’t want to do this.’ You jump into your fire truck and you save those people. You are a hero. Thank you for your service. Sincerly [sic], Lena.”

“These kids weren’t born yet when this happened,” Shwartz said after the program. “But we hope that by doing this they can appreciate what happened. It’s a part of our national psyche.”

JNF also presented firefighters from Pikesville Volunteer Fire Company Station 32, Chestnut Ridge Volunteer Fire Company Station 50 and Baltimore County Fire Department Station 2 — Pikesville’s career firefighters — with tree certificates to thank them for their contributions in fighting the fires in Israel last November as part of the Emergency Volunteers Project.

In late November 2016, Israel experienced the worst fire outbreak in its history. Throughout the six-day blaze, local fire stations sent 50 volunteer firefighters to Israel. Goldstein said when he got Israel’s call for help, he knew their stations would answer. He told the group: “There are 1,200 fire fighters in Israel [serving 8 million people]. There are 1,400 fire fighters in Baltimore County [serving 1 million people].”

Jason Broth, a Baltimore County firefighter and EMT for 25 years, was one of the firefighters who volunteered in Israel during the 2016 fires. Broth said his company was stationed in Herzliya and worked for nearly a week in and around the West Bank, giving the Israeli firefighters and first responders some much-needed respite.

He acknowledged that 9/11 is a “hard day” for all first responders, although “we think about it differently” than nonresponders. For firefighters, he said, it’s a reminder that “this can happen any day. Any day can be the one that you might not come home. You move forward and you learn.”

In addition to the event in Baltimore, the JNF held similar 9/11 commemorations at fire stations in six other U.S. cities including Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, Calif., Chicago, Boston, Miami and San Francisco.

“We can all hope that it never happens again,” Broth said. “But if it does, we know we’ll do everything we can to help. Even if it means sacrificing our lives.”

Erica Rimlinger is a local freelance writer.

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