Milwaukee Fire Department remembers 9/11 with ceremony at Deer District

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- 343 sets of fire gear, each paired with the name of a firefighter lost on 9/11, as well as 248 candles, each representing a life lost to cancer caused during the response to 9/11, graced the grounds of the Deer District outside of Fiserv Forum on the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks against the United States.

Milwaukee Fire Department officials announced Saturday that multiple fire departments came together to gather sets of gear for the ceremony.

Officials say set-up for the event started early Saturday morning.

The ceremony included the public reading of names of 9/11 victims in the Deer District.

"This day is very very solemn for many of us," said Deputy Fire Coordinator in Orange County, New York, Matthew Thorp.

Thorp was one of many out at Fiserv Forum visiting the display Saturday.

For Thorp, he remembered what it was like to be a first responder in New York that day, and was looking for friends he lost.

"Some of the friends of ours from neighboring departments, one that lived in my village, David Wiess, he was a Lt. in Rescue One, he was tragically lost that day," said Thorp.

Joel Wecklitz, a Milwaukee Fire Department Battalion Chief, said fire departments from across the county came together to get the 343 sets of fire gear together to remember those lost.

Part of the ceremony, the 4-5 bell strike, is something firefighters do whenever a firefighter passes away.

"For me, it's a time of sorrow, of reflection, it's a time to remember how unified we were as a nation on September 12th," said Wecklitz.

12-year old Julian Anderson was also in attendance Saturday.

Anderson said he's doing a project in school comparing 9/11 to the COVID-19 pandemic, part of that is talking with his parents about their experience on that fateful day.

"[Like] what they did on 9/11," said Anderson.

He said the idea of 9/11 evokes a similar fear he felt at the start of the pandemic.

"It would be scary, like really scary," Anderson.

Thorp said he's glad to hear that kids are learning about what happened.

"Very important because I fear that a generation is going to forget what happened," said Thorp.

"We can overcome anything when we do it together as one nation," said Wecklitz.

Firefighters also told CBS 58 that 9/11 changed how they operate as a station and act in their daily lives.

"From how radios are operated, to tactics and strategies with regards to high rise buildings, it changed everything, and it made myself and my colleagues just more aware of the dangers of our job," said Wecklitz 

The Milwaukee High School of the Arts choir also performed at 4 p.m. as a part of the ceremony events in the Deer District.

View this morning's ceremony in the video below:

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