A Special Note from Fire Chief Joseph Schelstreet

Honoring First Responders on the Anniversary of September 11

Below are remarks that St. Charles Fire Chief Joseph Schelstreet delivered at the Fire Department’s annual Sept. 11 Remembrance Ceremony, honoring the police and fire professionals.

Today is a day of recognition and reflection. We are assembled here at the Fire Department monument to not only recognize and honor the sacrifices made on September 11, 2001, by the firefighters and police officers but to also reflect on what the terrible price they paid truly meant then and also what it also must mean for our future.

The story of the events that occurred that day speak of tragedy and unthinkable loss. However those same stories highlight the traits that we hold most dear within our chosen callings: commitment, dedication and the willingness to sacrifice personal safety for the safety of others. Certainly 343 of our brother firefighters in New York, 23 New York police officers and 37 port authority officers made the ultimate sacrifice and more continue to be taken due to due documented 9/11 related illnesses.

The question for us is how do we continue to honor their loss? What must we do to show them reverence? How do you demonstrate to the families of these fallen and to the men and women of the armed forces who were called into action later, to combat that underlying evil that we remember? I would offer that we do it by continuing our personal commitment to the belief in what we are all here to do, how we are supposed to act, and what each of us represents. We confirm it by acknowledging that, even when the world around us becomes chaotic, inhospitable and sometimes unrecognizable, we will still be there to help those who need it, to restore order and sometimes to simply give comfort through just our presence and the unspoken assurance that we will indeed be there when we are called.

At the end of the day, aren’t those some of the principles that the honored lost lived by? They never flinched, they did not look back, they did nothing less than justify the reputation of emergency services that we are fortunate to work in. I do have something to ask of all of you. When you put on that uniform, please realize the good you do, understand that with sacrifice comes integrity and continue every day to serve with distinction. Support each other, recognize that turnout gear or a vest may protect you from many physical dangers but that the emotional dangers are just as real and not stoppable by fabric or shielding.  In doing these things you will daily bring honor to the lost, to our departments, and to yourselves. Thank you.

Photo Credit: Jim Wallace