A solemn moment before a flag flown at half-staff outside Lawton Fire Station No. 5 marked the 19th anniversary of a day that changed America forever.
Lined in a socially-distanced formation of three lines, the firefighters stood in silent attention before Old Glory, resting midway against pole, no breeze to stir it. Perhaps the elements offered solemn respect in solidarity.
First at 8:46 a.m. and again at 9:02 a.m., these first responders silently saluted the 412 emergency responders who fell while following their mission at the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.
It’s a ritual of reverence and respect that takes place each year. With just under 3,000 people who died from the Sept. 11 attacks, it was a day that scars the nation’s history. This year, the sight of firefighters donning face masks provided a reminder of the almost 200,000 Americans who have died in the past five months due to COVID-19.
Those considerations have caused a national tradition that Lawton’s firefighters have joined. Each year, a contingent of Lawton’s fire crew don their bunker gear and walk up 110 flights of stairs to honor those firefighters lost at the Twin Towers.
Due to COVID-19 concerns, that tradition has been put on hold regarding taking these steps as a group, according to LFD Captain Chris Jones. He said some of the men are taking it upon themselves this week to take those steps on their own, be it at the gym or the department’s training tower.
One of those in attendance Friday had brought Station No. 5’s favorite doughnuts. A good army (of first responders) marches best on its stomach, according to a paraphrased saying attributed to Napolean Bonaparte. Kathi Ezzo Talbott said she was happy to add fuel to these responders’ tanks.
Talbott has stakes in this crew. It’s their station that houses a Flag of Fallen Heroes and other items of memorabilia she’d trusted in its care. See, she knows what it means more than many. Her brother, then a 30 year old firefighter joined the ranks of the fallen.
Peter Brennan joined the Civil Air Patrol at the age of 16. As soon as he was allowed at 18, he became a volunteer firefighter. He later joined the New York City Police Department and was a police officer at the scene of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing that killed six people and injured thousands. After three years on the force, he worked as a paramedic before being assigned to Rescue 4 with the New York City Fire Department.
On Sept. 11, 2001, he was off of work recovering from lung damage received while rescuing three of his fellow firefighters during a house fire. He was due to receive a medal of honor four days later. But when he was needed, he answered the call. He was never recovered from rubble and to this day remains a part of what has become an internationally renown symbol of the evils of terrorism and the resilience of the American people.
“They never found his body,” Talbott said. “They never found nothing.”
Talbott said her brother’s commitment to service is something that’s carried to the next generation. Brennan’s daughter now works as a paramedic. His son, born the December after Brennan’s death, has been selected to attend the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md.
Along with being the columnist of Soundemonium Musaic, Scott Rains is also a police, fire, Native Affairs and roller derby reporter for The Lawton Constitution. You can email him at: email@example.com.