PALM SPRINGS, Ca.
Before the sun came up over the valley dozens gathered at Palm Springs Fired Department headquarters to remember the victims of 9/11. A moment of silence was observed the exact moment the first plane hit the North Tower of the World Trade Center 15 years ago.
"We wanted to meet as a family and as a community and just kind of experience this tragic day together," says Captain Greg Lyle.
"I’m grateful that we do this as hard as it is to watch, as hard as it is to remember it’s really important that we do," added Palm Springs council member J.R. Roberts.
Nearly 3,000 people were killed in terrorist attacks that September day, many of them were first responders.
"I can’t believe it’s been 15 years but being a fireman now you have more of a respect, I guess for what those guys you know, sacrificed," says Palm Springs firefighter Matthew Hein who was in college at the time of the attacks.
"Three hundred and forty three firemen and 60 police officers died on that day and it’s something that firemen and policeman have pledged themselves to do and they’ll always do," says Palm Springs Mayor Rob Moon.
But because of their heroic efforts many were saved and that’s not lost on a day like today.
"Though 2996 people perished that day there were thousands that were saved and so that’s something special," says Lyle.
And the acts of heroism didn’t end on 9/11, Roland Cook, now retired from the Palm Springs Fire Department and rescue dog Bautz worked at ground zero doing search and rescue on the mound of concrete and mangled steel.
"It was obviously a life changing experience for everybody not just the firefighters that worked there, but the entire world," says Cook.
Even heroes have heroes they remember on 9/11.
"The heroes that people forget about are the people on (United) Flight 93 the passengers, the flight crew, the flight attendants, they all fought back," says Cook.
The Palm Springs Fire Chief, Kevin Nalder says lives are still being saved today because of what we learned from the tragedy, "Many measures were put into place to help save lives when an incident happens … after that horrific event."
The department hopes more people visit their permanent 9/11 memorial that includes a piece of metal from the twin towers, and this early morning tribute becomes as important a tradition as it is for those who witnessed the tragedy.
"It’s a moment that still chokes me up 15 years later and I imagine it will until I die," says Lyle.