IFSI honors fallen heroes

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A beam of light is seen over the Pentagon, as part of the Towers of Light Tribute marking the 19th anniversary of the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — The events of September 11, 2001 had a ripple effect. Central Illinois was no exception. To this day, members of the Illinois Fire Service Institute continue to honor those who sacrificed their lives to save others.

IFSI is the oldest annual fire school in North America and firefighters come from all over the Midwest to get certified.

Just inside the doors of the Learning Resource and Research Center at IFSI sits a piece of a history: a beam from the World Trade Center. It introduces visitors to “Memorial Hall.” It’s a place dedicated to the organization’s history and people who have died in the line of duty.

One of them died during the attacks on September 11. New York Firefighter, Andrew Fredericks, had partnered with IFSI before his death.

“You never know when you’re going to go to a fire or when you’re going to respond to an emergency and it will be your last one,” says Brian Brauer, Associate Director of Infrastructure and Special Projects.

Brauer remembers watching that day unfold. The day before, IFSI had broken ground on a building collapse program. On September 11, he and members of a recruit academy watched everything happen on TV.

“The emotions really peaked when the first building collapsed and we knew that there were large numbers of firefighters, police and EMS personnel on site,” says Brauer. “It demonstrates the ethos and the commitment that firefighters make to protecting the public. We’re all prepared to put ourselves between hostile fire and the public to keep them safe. And there’s no better example of the huge rescue effort of 9/11. Over 10,000 people evacuated from the buildings. While it came at a high human cost, it could’ve been even greater if the fire department hadn’t pushed in and gone up as high in the buildings as they could to try and get people out.”

A lot changed in a post-9/11 world. Brauer says Illinois was able to build infrastructure to help first responders in future emergencies. The plans had been developed in 1997 and the money became available after 9/11.

“We identified that we have 19 major metropolitan areas in the state, some of which had a hazardous material team, some of which had a rescue team, some of which had an incident management team, some had multiple of all three. Others had none. We invested that money to build capability for technical rescue, for chemical release and for managing a large scale incident throughout the state,” says Brauer.

First responders have used those capabilities to help in tornadoes, flooding, chemical spills and train derailments.

He says it’s a silver lining to a tragic event, but also a somber reminder of the loss it took to get here.

“Take a moment and reflect on the sacrifices that were made that day. And those sacrifices were everywhere — from flight crews and passengers that were in limited control of their fate that day — to people that just went to work in an office that day or in the Pentagon and lost their lives. As well as the emergency responders that were not there by circumstance, but were there because it was their job and they, without hesitation, those police, fire and EMS workers went to do their job. Remember them.”

Thanks to the work done at IFSI, and places like it, the devastating attacks of September 11, 2001 won’t soon be forgotten … in Central Illinois or across the country.

To learn more about IFSI and the work it does, click here.

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