As Saturday marks 20 years since the tragic attacks on 9/11, first responders in North Dakota are reflecting on the lasting impacts of that day.
“It pretty much woke up America,” Minot Rural Fire Chief Rex Weltikol said.
The morning of September 11, 2001, Weltikol was getting ready to start his day as a deputy fire marshal in Bismarck when he heard the news.
“Everybody had TVs on, radios and whatever, just to get all the information they could to see what was happening,” Weltikol said.
Now on his 26th year in the fire service, Weltikol says the tragedy brought first responders together and inspired more to join the field.
“It’s a whole new bond it appears. A lot more people wanted to join their volunteer fire departments, there was several people that probably changed careers just to become part of this,” Weltikol said.
Bismarck Fire Captain Dusty Schlittenhardt says he was building a deck when he found out.
“To think of one line of death is hard, then to think of 343 on the same event was uncomprehendable almost. It was terrible,” Schlittenhardt said.
He says he’ll never forget the community support for firefighters following the attacks.
“Renewed American spirit, is what it was,” Schlittenhardt said.
Schlittenhardt says after 9/11, the department developed stronger partnerships with other responding agencies, received more equipment from Homeland Security and became better prepared for potential attacks.
“It put us out front of incidents that would involve weapons of mass destruction and kind of got us thinking in that mindset,” Schlittenhardt said.
Now two decades since that day, Schlittenhardt says it’s still important to look back year after year.
“I just hope that people never forget,” Schlittenhardt said.
343 firefighters of the New York City Fire Department died on September 11, 2001.