COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Members of the Colorado Springs Fire Department are reflecting on the tragic day when 343 members of the New York Fire Department lost their lives on 9/11/01.
“It’s a defining event for firefighters,” said CSFD Captain Mike Smaldino. “Even though they weren’t Colorado Springs firefighters it still touches you just the same.”
Among the fallen, Christopher Santora–the youngest firefighter killed on September 11–while clearing out his locker, his family found a Colorado Springs Fire Department shirt he had just gotten.
“I was in New York a week and a half before September 11, just happened to go to a fire station and traded a shirt with a new foregather there, and he ended up dying in the tower,” said Smaldino.
Smaldino continues to wear Santora’s shirt every year to commemorate the sacrifices he and the other firefighters made that day.
Days after the attack, members of the Colorado Springs Fire Department answered the call of duty and were on Ground Zero going through piles of debris searching for survivors and assisting in recovery efforts.
“They are all retired now, all the firefighters that helped out are gone. That whole generation is missing from our department,” said Lieutenant Chris Weaver.
To firefighters across the nation, the impacts of 911 can still be felt.
The CDC estimates more than 400-thousand people were exposed to toxic contaminants related to the attacks.
“Just because they didn’t die in the building, we have had hundreds who have died due to complications,” said Smaldino.
Colorado Springs is home to the International Fallen Firefighter Memorial honoring the sacrifice made while in the line of duty.
The names of the 343 members of the New York Fire Department who lost their lives are engraved on the memorial and throughout the years families of the fallen have come out to Colorado Springs to celebrate the bravest of the brave.