A firefighter takes a moment to collect himself. (Pixabay photo)

17 years later: West Shore officials remember Ground Zero just days after attack

Mayor Stew Young, Bob Beckett, Bruce Brown stood with victims’ families in the days following 9/11

Like so many people around the world, Bob Beckett remembers what he was doing the exact moment two planes crashed into the World Trade Centre on 9/11.

Beckett, who was Langford’s fire chief at the time, woke up like every other day, had his morning coffee, and turned on the news for a couple of minutes before heading out to the fire hall on Peatt Road.

There, sitting alongside local dispatchers and millions of other viewers around the world, Beckett watched as the Twin Towers crumbled to the ground, in what has become known as the deadliest terror attack on American soil.

READ MORE: U.S. marks 9-11

“For me, it wasn’t about the collapse of the building, it was immediately recognizing that hundreds of firefighters would be killed,” said Beckett on the 17th anniversary of the attack on Tuesday. “That was a blow to the stomach.”

Nearly 3,000 people died in the attacks on 9/11, including many first responders.

The day after, Mayor Stew Young, Beckett and Staff. Sgt. Bruce Brown with the West Shore RCMP agreed to travel to New York as a show of support.

“We get so many terrorist acts now, but that was the first time really that we had seen it happen on North American soil at a level like that … I was in shock with what was happening on the TVs,” said Young, adding the trip was one of the most important things he’s done during his time as mayor.

“It was more of just trying to make sure we were supporting our American friends, and the people on the planes were not just Americans, there were Canadians as well.”

RELATED: Looking back at a career in the fire service

They also brought a “significant” monetary donation, which went towards an education bursary for children of deceased firefighters, as well as letters and drawings made by local elementary school children.

Only four days after the attacks, the trio boarded a boat from New Jersey that took them to Ground Zero alongside hundreds of family members of the first responders who lost their lives while trying to save others. They stood somberly next to children – some too young to understand what was going on – who clutched teddy bears, notes and flowers, which they later laid at the site.

Stepping off the boat, they witnessed a sight unlike anything they had seen before.

Fires were still burning days after the attack, pieces of paper continued to float from office buildings and rubble stretched as far as the eye could see. The smell of smoke still clouded the air.

“It was an honour to be there. The enormity of it struck me. It’s hard to grasp how huge an area that it encompassed, not just the two buildings that fell down, but also the surrounding buildings that were partially destroyed,” Brown said.

“It’s just the sheer devastation. There was a huge hole in the ground that the World Trade Centre was, pancaked down into almost nothing … It just seemed unreal.”

The trio spent five days in New York, attending funerals for other first responders, among other things.

RELATED: West Shore bands together to help Haiti

While the attack took place nearly two decades ago, the memories have stayed with them. If Brown watches a show or movie that depicts New York, it transports him back to the scene, carnage and emotions of that day.

Reliving those memories on the anniversary of the attacks are also a way to honour those who made the ultimate sacrifice and encourage people to work towards a more peaceful future.

“We need to recognize the sacrifice that they made. There’s workplace injuries and deaths every year. These folks were walking up the stairwells attempting to rescue and suppress the fire. They knew what they were doing and what they were entering,” Beckett said. “I owe it to them to recognize that ultimate sacrifice they made.”

For Beckett the events of 9/11 were a catalyst to help others as well. It kicked off years of humanitarian work in places such as Haiti, Afghanistan and Pakistan to sow seeds of hope rather than fear.

“We have to start to see that we’re all one family and we have a responsibility of helping that global community, otherwise we will continue to have the strife that we see,” he said. “Never forget that we need to continue to strive towards global peace”


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

kendra.wong@goldstreamgazette.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Vancouver Island’s current COVID-19 case count officially hits zero

Of the 130 recorded Island Health cases, five people have died, 125 recovered

Saanich teen launches free online tutoring website

School Helpers matches volunteer tutors with students

Oak Bay clinic opens virtual classes to public for fundraiser

Patient activity is up for cancer-supporting clinic during COVID-19 crisis

Black bear sighting reported on UVic campus

University urging residents in the area to be careful

National Doughnut Day pays tribute to those on frontlines of First World War

The Salvation Army will be handing out doughnuts to community partners on Friday

MAP: Dr. Henry reveals which B.C. regions have seen most COVID-19 cases

B.C. health officials release a first look at how the novel coronavirus has reached all corners of the province

POLL: Are you sending your children back to school this month?

Classrooms looked decidedly different when students headed back to school for the… Continue reading

Plan in place for BC Ferries to start increasing service levels

Ferry corporation reaches temporary service level agreement with province

B.C. starts to see employment return under COVID-19 rules

Jobless rate for young people still over 20% in May

Alert Bay resident carves tribute to his community kicking COVID-19’s butt

‘Our little village crushed the curve with love and commitment’

End of an Era: Tofino hair studio closes shop

“We were getting excited to start ramping up and then all of sudden we had to close our doors.”

Kelowna Mountie on desk duty following ‘aggressive’ arrest

The officer involved in an arrest that took place on May 30 in Kelowna has been placed on administrative duties

Protests shift to memorializing George Floyd amid push for change

‘There is something better on the other side of this,’ says Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottom

Limit gun capacity to five bullets, victims group urges Trudeau government

Current limits are generally five bullets for hunting rifles and shotguns and 10 for handguns.

Most Read