Fallen Firefighters Memorial Service Speech

MP Irene Mathyssen's speech to the London Firefighters Association at the September 11th Memorial Service for Firefighters who have fallen in the line of duty:

Honoured guests, members of London’s emergency services and family members, I am very humbled  by the opportunity to be part of today’s remembrance ceremony in honour of those who lost their lives in the attack on the World trade Centre and the Emergency Response workers who selflessly rushed to the aid of those in need of rescue, help and comfort.

Eleven years ago, nearly 3,000 innocent people -- citizens from 77 countries around the world -- lost their lives in the worst terrorist attack in American history. As we look back on the events that took place in New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia, it is important to remember the people who were lost and the families they left behind.  We also honour the heroic men and women who arrived on the scene as first responders and saved countless lives, even when it meant giving their own. Three hundred and forty-three New York City firefighters, 2 paramedics, 37 police officers, 23 officers from the Port Authority of New York and the New Jersey Police Department  and 8 Emergency Medical technicians and paramedics from private emergency services, lost their lives on September 11, 2001.  More than 50,000 people are believed to have worked in rescue, recovery and cleanup operations at the World Trade Centre site. This included the police officers, firefighters, construction workers and municipal workers, who were all exposed to toxic smoke and thick clouds of dangerous dust created when the towers collapsed. The events of that day, the days and weeks that followed placed those emergency workers under tremendous stress. Many were later diagnosed with asthma, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, respiratory diseases and numerous types of cancer.   And far too many succumbed to the injuries they received in the line of duty.

These were the men and women who did not question or hesitate when they were needed.  Today we remember them, as we remember the 22 lost heroes of our own community, those 22  and the many other emergency workers of London, Ontario who respond without question or hesitation, to the distress and needs of the people of our community.

For many of us, even eleven years after those horrific events in New York City, we can still see the terrifying images and taste the fear they generated; but more importantly in the midst of fear and terror, there were acts of courage and self- sacrifice. We remember those heroes with gratitude because they also remind us of our common humanity and the absolute obligation to honour, support and care for each other.  We cannot and must not do otherwise.

We must always be mindful and acknowledge the bravery of first responders and emergency services personnel. To the men and women in this fire hall and police stations, firehalls and emergency service facilities across our country, we owe you such a debt of thanks.  You make it possible for us to approach the future with hope and optimism because you define caring and courage by the work you do, the service you give, and by the integrity of your conduct and compassion. We are grateful to you, the emergency workers who serve and protect our cities and communities, - every day.  We thank you for watching over us; we thank you for keeping us safe.