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9/11: Remembering the past, shaping the future

9/11 graphic

Vector based graphic design created Sep. 06, 2016 in the Regional Media Center (RMC) at the Armed Forces Network Europe on Sembach Kaserne, Germany, in remembrance of 9/11/01. RMC provides news and entertainment coverage across Europe. (U.S.Army Vector Illustration by Staff Sgt. Miguel Resendiz/Released)(Compound Path,Gradients,Mask were used.)

AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy -- “It was just another morning at the firehouse. We took roll, made sure the trucks were ready and headed to the breakroom. As I walked through the doors everyone was gathered around the TV, and at that moment, I saw the second plane crash into one of the towers,” said Master Sgt. Walter Shutler, 31st Civil Engineer Squadron deputy fire chief.

On Sept. 11, 2001, disbelieving Americans watched terrorists fly two hijacked airplanes into the World Trade Center’s Tower one and Tower two. More than 2,977 people were killed, including 343 firefighters, who, in the face of danger, put their lives on the line for others.

Saving others is nothing unusual to first responders, but for two Team Aviano firefighters, 9/11 offers a time to reflect on why they joined and continue to serve in the Air Force.

Shutler was five months into his first assignment at Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark. Airman 1st Class Andrew Hall, 31st CES firefighter, was just four years old when he watched the tragic events unfold on live TV.

“Initially I had no idea what was happening,” said Hall, who was on a plane to Disney World in Orlando, Fla., when the two towers were hit. “What stuck with me the most was, once we landed everyone’s eyes were glued to the TVs. I remember seeing fire and debris covering the streets.”

The 9/11 terrorist attacks have shaped many Airmen in personal and professional ways. It was years before Hall raised his right hand, but those memories fueled his passion to become a firefighter.

“The events of 9/11 made a big impact on why I joined the military,” said Hall. "I was reminded year after year about the horrible and cowardly attacks against our nation; and I wasn’t able to do a thing about it. When it came time, it was a given to join as a firefighter.”

For Shutler, there were no questions asked when called upon to support a global war on terrorism.

“We all watched in shock and anger,” said Shutler. “We had our moments of grief, but it quickly occurred to all of us-we’re going to war with somebody.”

As another 9/11 passes, Shutler hopes to continue influencing the younger generation of firefighters, like Hall.

“If I could pass on one piece of advice to the firefighters joining today, it would be to honor your commitment,” said Shutler. “As Airmen and firefighters, we must put forth all our effort on- and off-duty, like the firefighters of New York City did that day.”

“The veterans within the firehouse make being a firefighter an honor,” said Hall. “They have so much pride in this job, which has made my choice of being a firefighter that much easier. This 9/11 I’m going to reflect on how incredibly honored I am to be a firefighter, and to wear the same badge as the ones who risked it all that day.”