Oakland firefighters, police and city officials gathered Friday morning under the gaze of a large American flag to remember those killed in the 9/11 terrorist attacks that occurred 20 years ago today.

The flag hung from the ladders of two fire trucks just outside the Lake Merritt Amphitheater.

“No one ever ever forgets where they were on the day of Sept. 11,” Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said. “Today is a day for us to remember all who were lost.”

Schaaf acknowledged the constant state of readiness of police and firefighters, who can be called “at a moment’s notice to run into danger” and who never pause to think about what they will lose by doing so.

“No one ever ever forgets where they were on the day of Sept. 11. Today is a day for us to remember all who were lost.”

Mayor Libby Schaaf

Nearly 3,000 people died in the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, when terrorists hijacked commercial passenger planes and crashed them into the World Trade Center towers in New York City, into the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and into a field in Pennsylvania.

“We gather to remember their loss and honor their legacy,” Oakland Fire Chief Reginald Freeman said while thanking Oakland’s fire personnel for what they have done to make Oakland stronger.

Fire officials said 412 of those who died in the attack were New York City emergency workers, 343 of whom were New York City firefighters, including a chaplain and two paramedics, who had responded to the fallen towers.

The attacks that day also took the lives of more than 70 law enforcement officers, more line-of-duty deaths than any other event in American history, Oakland fire officials said.

Hundreds more police and firefighters have died or become ill due to toxic debris following the towers’ collapse in New York.

A New York City firefighter calls for 10 more rescue workers to make their way into the rubble of the World Trade Center shortly after the collapse of the towers. More than 400 first responders died when the buildings fell in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. (Photo by Journalist 1st Class Preston Keres/U.S. Navy via Wikipedia)

Oakland Fire Capt. John Farrell responded to the World Trade Center site as part of a strike team that was deployed to New York from California.

“I was very proud to go,” he said, even though his first child had been born five months earlier.

He continues to serve the strike team as a safety officer. California has eight teams that deploy to assist in the event of natural or manmade disasters.

Oakland Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong summed up the reason for Friday’s event.

“Today, we remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice,” he said.

Keith Burbank is currently a fulltime reporter covering Alameda County and Oakland news for Bay City News. He has also worked on the Data Points project for Local News Matters, finding trends and stories about the region through data. In 2019, he was a California Fellow at the USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism, producing a series about homeless deaths in Santa Clara County. He worked as a swing shift editor for the newswire for several years as well. Outside of journalism, Keith enjoys computer programming, math, economics and music.