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

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

Island Health has confirmed the first long term care facility outbreak in Greater Victoria at Veterans Memorial Lodge in Saanich. (Google Maps)
Island Health records first long-term care COVID outbreak in Greater Victoria

Veterans Memorial Lodge in Saanich confirms one positive staff member

Itty, a Siamese cat, has been missing since a house fire in Victoria’s Fernwood neighbourhood on Friday, Nov. 27. Her owner says she has white fur with blonde and grey markings. (Facebook/ROAM)
Cat goes missing after house fire in Fernwood neighbourhood

‘Itty’ has white fur, blonde and grey markings and blue eyes

The Saanich Fire Department Station #2 C-Battalion members (left to right) firefighter Clayton Tilon, firefighter Bonnie Fiala, firefighter Zay Hamilton, Capt. Dawrin Schellenberg and firefighter Charlie Rivers show off their BC Emergency Health Servicecs Vital Link Award. (Photo courtesy Darwin Schellenberg)
Saanich firefighters receive Vital Link Award from paramedics for life-saving CPR

Award issued to C-Battalion, civilian for help saving cardiac arrest patient in June

An aerial view over Oak Bay. (Black Press Media File Photo)
An aerial view over Oak Bay and the Marina. Oak Bay residents pay the highest taxes on Vancouver Island. Don Denton/Black Press
Oak Bay secondary suites study considers units old and new

Secondary suites draft report due in new year

(Dave Landine/Facebook)
VIDEO: Dashcam captures head-on crash between snowplow and truck on northern B.C. highway

Driver posted to social media that he walked away largely unscathed

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

A B.C. Ambulance Service paramedic wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 moves a stretcher outside an ambulance at Royal Columbia Hospital, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, November 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Top doctor urges Canadians to limit gatherings as ‘deeply concerning’ outbreaks continue

Canada’s active cases currently stand at 63,835, compared to 53,907 a week prior

A Canadian Pacific freight train travels around Morant’s Curve near Lake Louise, Alta., on Monday, Dec. 1, 2014. A study looking at 646 wildlife deaths along the railway tracks in Banff and Yoho national parks in Alberta and British Columbia has found that train speed is one of the biggest factors. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Study finds train speed a top factor in wildlife deaths in Banff, Yoho national parks

Research concludes effective mitigation could address train speed and ability of wildlife to see trains

A airport worker is pictured at Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C. Wednesday, March 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Canada extends COVID restrictions for non-U.S. travellers until Jan. 21 amid second wave

This ban is separate from the one restricting non-essential U.S. travel

Menno Place. (Google Street View image.)
B.C. care home looks to hire residents’ family members amid COVID-19-related staff shortage

Family would get paid as temporary workers, while having chance to see loved ones while wearing PPE

A man walks by a COVID-19 test pod at the Vancouver airport in this undated handout photo. A study has launched to investigate the safest and most efficient way to rapidly test for COVID-19 in people taking off from the Vancouver airport. The airport authority says the study that got underway Friday at WestJet’s domestic check-in area is the first of its kind in Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Vancouver Airport Authority *MANDATORY CREDIT*
COVID-19 rapid test study launches at Vancouver airport for departing passengers

Airport authority says that a positive rapid test result does not constitute a medical diagnosis for COVID-19

A small crash in the water south of Courtenay Saturday afternoon. Two men had to be rescued, but reports indicate there were no serious injuries. Photo by Mike Chouinard
Small plane crash in Comox Valley waters Saturday afternoon

Two rescued from plane that had flipped in water; no serious injuries reported

A photo from 2017, of Nuchatlaht First Nation members outside court after filing a land title case in B.C. ( Submitted photo/Nuchatlaht First Nation).
Vancouver Island First Nation calls on B.C. to honour UNDRIP in historic title case

Nuchatlaht First Nation says Crown counsel continues to stall the case using the ‘distasteful’ argument that the Nation ‘abandoned’ their land

Most Read