Olympia honors first responders who served in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks


The Olympia Law Enforcement and Fire Fighter (LEOFF) Disability Board commenced its regular meeting by sharing their personal experiences and memories of the 9/11 attacks and honoring the men and women who responded to the call of service on that fateful day.

The advisory board convened for a regular meeting on Monday, September 11.

The nation observed the 22nd anniversary of the tragic events of September 11, 2001, when terrorists launched coordinated attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City, the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and Flight 93 in Pennsylvania. Nearly 3,000 lives were claimed by this historic event.

Councilmember and LEOFF chair Jim Cooper asked the board to take a moment and reflect on "an important day in history" to pay tribute to the law enforcement and firefighters who served during critical emergencies.

Russ Gies, representing the police department, said the images and stories deeply moved him from the scene of the September 11 attacks, featured in the news coverage of the anniversary, and told the board,  "I had tears coming down my eyes."

Right after the 9/11 attacks, Gies recalled, they sent police officers to the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport to help in the screening.

"We sent officers up there during the day to help them. Our folks were happy to do it. They gave our guys a quick training,” shared Gies. “It was more for the presence of walking around being present more than anything."

Steve Cooper, firefighters' representative to the LEOFF Board, recounted that the firefighter team watched in horror when they saw the towers collapse on television more than 20 years ago.

"It was a tough day," Cooper commented, adding that the Olympia Fire Department could not send anybody to Ground Zero because they did not have enough available personnel. He also said there was an overwhelming response from task forces across the state. 

Board member Mark Hansen shared that he escaped a life-threatening situation due to a doctor's appointment outside of New York. Otherwise, he would have been going through his usual routine, commuting from New Jersey and attending a meeting with people when the attack happened. Unfortunately, he lost colleagues in both buildings.

LEOFF staff Debbi Hufana revealed that her two children, who were in their early 20s then, would join the military if drafted. "We would not like it, but we would defend our country," Hufana quoted her sons.

The conversation shifted to their shared concerns about the health repercussions stemming from the tragic events. Gies cited a news report from NPR about people in New York, not necessarily first responders, who are still developing cancers and various respiratory diseases due to the 9/11 attacks.


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