In the aftermath of the collapse of the twin towers on 9/11, New York City police Officer George Howley said he drove to Home Depot with firefighters to gather eyewash and tools to bring to ground zero to rescue and recover victims.
Howley said he remembers everyone having issues with their eyes and breathing. Ground zero, he recalled, seemed like the aftermath of a volcanic eruption.
Howley said his former partner, an NYPD officer who became a firefighter, died in the attack and many other friends died later of cancer.
“This is 18 years as a gift I could have easily lost, easily,” he said.
On Wednesday, Howley, who retired and moved to the Coeur d’Alene area about five years ago, paid respects to the victims at a ceremony hosted by Coeur d’Alene’s fire department at the Fallen Heroes Plaza at Cherry Hill Park, which displays part of the wreckage from the World Trade Center.
Howley said moving to Coeur d’Alene from New York was a way to raise his two children, both born after 9/11, in a safer, quieter place.
Howley said he has visited Coeur d’Alene’s 9/11 memorial on the anniversary of the attack each year since he moved to the area, but usually avoids the ceremony, choosing instead to mark the day at a quieter time.
But he opted to attend the event this year to help keep the memory of the day alive. He brought a small album of photos from ground zero to the memorial, something he normally carries with him on 9/11 to show people the true extent of the devastation.
“I just wanted to show my respect and be a part of it,” he said. “If you don’t partake in a ceremony, it will eventually die down.”
Luke Pichette, deputy fire chief of the Coeur d’Alene Fire Department, led the memorial service. He said holding the ceremony year after year at a memorial created for fallen heroes was a way to honor the thousands who died in the attack. He was among dozens of firefighters, law enforcement, city staff and community members who attended.
“This is our small way of showing we haven’t forgotten,” he said.
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