DeKALB – Patrick Eriksen, a firefighter and paramedic with the DeKalb Fire Department, said that since 9/11, the world has never been the same.
Eriksen was working in an office by O’Hare Airport and noticed the lack of planes in the sky. After work, he watched news coverage of the day’s events with the North Aurora Fire Department.
He later learned that his cousin, Joseph Florio, a firefighter with Engine 214 of Brooklyn, New York, died that day. His uncle Keith Eriksen, a firefighter with Hempstead Fire Department on Long Island, New York, spent a month helping with recovery efforts and cleaning up rubble.
On Friday, Eriksen led the DeKalb Fire Department 9/11 Remembrance Ceremony. The observance featured the DeKalb Firefighters Honor Guard, the ringing of the fire station’s bell three times to signify the end of shift for the first responders who died, the lowering of the American flag to half-staff, a moment of silence, bagpipers playing “Amazing Grace” and a few speeches.
Eriksen’s son Nick said that it was important to attend the ceremony, even though he wasn't alive when 9/11 happened. He was born in 2004, three years later.
“It’s important to honor the memory of those who died and the first responders' efforts,” he said. “It hits home for my family, but it’s important for everyone to remember.”
Fire Chief Jeff McMaster was at the DeKalb fire station and watched the news on TV throughout the day on Sept. 11, 2001.
“It was surreal and we didn’t believe it was happening,” McMaster said. “It was like the entire world came to a standstill. Nobody knew what was going to happen next. But the firefighters knew what to do. They did their jobs.
"I know without a doubt that any one of us would have done the exact same thing," he said. "Patriot Day is all about remembering, remembering those that lost their lives, remembering those protectors who put others first in the name of their profession.”
During Friday's ceremony, Patrick Eriksen said 343 firefighters died during 9/11.
“They knew the dangers and went in to save people,” Eriksen said. “Firefighters go in when others go out. … What we do is more than a job, it’s a calling, and we have to make those 343 proud. We must never forget that day and the sacrifices that were made. We must never ever forget.”