Pictures of 343 New York City firefighters fluttered in the cool breeze outside South King Fire Station 64 on Saturday afternoon.
Smiling faces, and some straight-faced gazes of determination and pride, served as the backdrop for the department’s Sept. 11 memorial service recognizing 20 years since the 2001 terrorist attacks.
Each image showed a firefighter who lost their life in the attacks, turning toward the danger to help those in need as others escaped to safety.
“9/11 changed me,” said J.R. Klein, a paramedic for King County Medic One. Born and raised in New York City, he previously had aspirations to become an airline pilot, but realized after the attacks his real passion was helping others. He began his emergency medical service (EMS) career in 2002 after years as a volunteer firefighter. He worked as a paramedic in New York City until joining King County Medic One in 2011.
Though Sept. 11 is etched into the minds of millions, the days after should also be remembered, he said.
In total, 2,977 people died in the attacks. Alongside the deaths of hundreds of firefighters were 60 law enforcement professionals and several other non-uniformed medical and law enforcement professionals. Since 2001, hundreds of people have died due to cancer or post traumatic stress disorder related to the terrorist attacks, Klein said.
“Let’s not forget them either … Let’s try to remember when we were all one, when we were all proud to be an American,” Klein said. “Nobody wants another 9/11, but we would all love another 9/12.”
Over 100 community members, elected officials, firefighters and service members gathered for the ceremony on Saturday.
Station 64 is home to a Sept. 11 memorial honoring those who lost their lives in the terrorist attacks. Two South King Fire and Rescue firefighters who crisscrossed the country in 2011 to retrieve the steel beam from the World Trade Center, which was destroyed in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
In August 2011, Lt. Scott Mahlen and Driver Engineer Sven Schievink — both now retired from South King Fire — embarked on the 55-hour trip to New York. It was an emotional experience for both men, especially Schievink, who grew up in New York and lost friends in the 9/11 attacks, the Mirror previously reported.
Amber Alvarado, a Federal Way resident whose husband is a firefighter for Renton Regional Fire Authority, stood with her daughter near the steel beam after the ceremony on Sept. 11.
Luna, 4, had asked her why people were placing flowers at the base of the steel beam.
“I told her this is where we come to remember,” Alvarado said. “A special place where we talk about special things.”