Amherst Fire Department commemorates 9/11

‘These fighters, police officers, all stand ready to protect all of you’


(Will Katcher/Daily Collegian)

By Morgan Reppert, Managing Editor

While Sept. 11, 2001 is usually remembered as a day of darkness, Reverend Bruce Arbour managed to find a little bit of light in this years’ commemoration.

Eighteen years ago, an American Airlines Boeing 767 flew into the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York City, starting the tragic terrorist attacks memorialized every September 11 in the United States and around the world.

As a member of the Amherst Fire Department at the time of the attack, Arbour traveled alongside the firefighters to New York City, where firemen, policemen and other first responders came to serve the city in the wake of the mass tragedy.

On Wednesday, Arbour recounted his experiences and the people he met as a first responder at the AFD’s 9/11 memorial at the Central Fire Station on North Pleasant Street.

“I had talked to a firefighter who actually lost his team behind him. [Before] he made it out the door, his team got caught in the collapse. He didn’t know if he could do the job anymore,” Arbour said.

Although Arbour was only in New York for a week, the experience never left him – even years later. Four years after his service as a first responder, Arbour made a visit back to New York. Arbour saw the same firefighter from the tragedy who had lost his men. He was passing on engine 65, the same crew he had been apart of in 2001, driving through Times Square “still in the jumpsuit.”

“A lot of amazing things like that happened,” Arbour said.

The fire chief of Amherst, Walter O. “Tim” Nelson, also shared some words.

“These fighters, police officers, all stand ready to protect all of you. It’s our duty to keep you safe, it’s your responsibility to remember,” he said. Nelson spoke with conviction and it clearly rendered with those present.

During the ceremony, the flag flew at half-mast. After Arbour and Nelson spoke, the bell at the stations began to ring. All side conversations came to a halt and a few more attendees trickled in. A wave of solemnity could be felt amongst the crowd.

Arbour’s message rang true: “To remember on this day, our desire to hold and sustain the light that illuminated the place of disaster, place of lost, for hope was never lost and honor was always sustained, be with us as we remember.”

Morgan Reppert can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @reppertmorgan.