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Ten Years Later: Local Fire Chiefs Reflect on 9/11

10:27 PM, Sep 7, 2011   |    comments
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The memories are fresh for two First Coast fire chiefs.

"There was a lot of memories from September 11th, 2001," said Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department Chief Charles Moreland.

We met chiefs Charles Moreland and Lorin Mock at the Jacksonville Fire Museum, 10 years after the moments that changed United States history forever.

"It seems like it was yesterday," said Clay County Fire Chief Lorin Mock. "I had the terrible fear go up my spine.  I still get chills thinking about it now, that it was going to be an event that was going to spiral down the coast."

When the twin towers came down, Clay County Fire Chief Lorin Mock was then the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department's Operations Chief.  Current JFRD Chief Charles Moreland was then a lieutenant. Both took emotional trips to Ground Zero.

"You could almost smell death in the air.  The ash was all over the place," said Moreland.

Mock said, "We saw sacrifice that day."

On that day, nearly 350 firefighters and paramedics lost their lives.

"The honorable part to me was when they found a body, everything stopped.  All activity stopped.  There was a silence while a firefighter draped another firefighter or others with American flags and brought them off the pile," said Moreland.

"I don't think that you can be in this business and not have the almost omnipresent memory of 9/11 sitting there with you," said Mock.

Along with the memories, there are also lessons learned.

"The department was fundamentally a different organization pre-9/11 and post-9/11," said Mock.

A specialized team was sent from here to New York to assist with efforts, but to also bring back vital information.

"What could we bring back to Jacksonville, were something like this to occur in our city?," said Moreland.

September 11 has completely changed the way our local fire departments operate.  Moreland said communication strategies are strengthened.

"Trying to ensure that we don't drop the ball, that we're extremely prepared as best as we can be," said Moreland.

The size of hazmat teams has doubled.  There's even better technology to deal with any events involving weapons of mass destruction.

"We had been, I think, scratching the surface of terrorist preparation or terrorist response preparation prior to that time," said Mock.

Much is different now.  But both chiefs say no matter how much time passes, the images from that Tuesday morning in 2001 remain vivid.

"Everyone, from Flight 93 to the Pentagon to the World Trade Center, my thoughts and prayers are always with those individuals," said Moreland.

If there is a bright side from it all, it's the solidarity of firefighters from all over the U.S., pulling together in the rescue efforts.

"It's just a powerful force, when you think about it, people that are dedicated to life saving," said Mock.

Not everyone could be saved -- a reality remembered every year on the eleventh day of September.

"We're here to provide a service and give it our all, even if that includes dying to save your life," said Moreland.

First Coast News

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