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Firefighters pay tribute by shirts on their backs

SALEM – We all remember where we were, and what we were doing. Sept. 11. A date that changed our nation, and the way firefighters and police officers do their jobs.

9/11: The date terrorists flew two commercial airliners into the World Trade Towers in New York City and a third into the Pentagon. We remember the other plane that might have been headed toward the White House or the Capitol into a Pennsylvania field, through heroic actions of its passengers.

Salem Fire & Emergency Medical Services firefighter Erin Barger, center, holds up the shirt he designed and which department personnel wear. With him are fellow members of C Platoon, at Fire Station No. 1. Meg Hibbert photo
Salem Fire & Emergency Medical Services firefighter Erin Barger, center, holds up the shirt he designed and which department personnel wear, including members of C Platoon with him. Meg Hibbert photo

On this 10th anniversary, there will be services of prayer and remembrance in Salem and solemn ceremonies throughout the Roanoke Valley.

The men and women of the Salem Fire and Emergency Medical Services have been remembering for weeks, by the shirts on their backs.

Chief Pat Counts certainly remembers where he was on 9/11. “It was my second day on the job. I was appointed chief on Sept. 10,” he recalled.

He authorized his firefighters, EMTs and other staff to wear the handsome navy T-shirts designed by firefighter Erin Barger. The back features the New York City skyline, including the Statue of Liberty and the twin towers, backed up by a tattered section of an American flag.

The back of the Salem Fire & EMS shirt designed for the 9/11 remembrance was designed by C Platoon member Erin Barger.
The back of the Salem Fire & EMS shirt designed for the 9/11 remembrance was designed by C Platoon member Erin Barger.

“10 Years Stronger,” it reads at the top, and below the design, 343 Never Forget for the 343 firefighters who perished on 9/11. Underneath that in gold is the date September 11, 2011. The front of the shirt has a patch-sized version of the NYC skyline in white.

Barger, who is a member of C Platoon, explained he chief asked him to design something that could be worn on or off duty, and a way to remember the events of Sept. 11, 2001.

“It changed our world, the way we live and the way we do our job,” said Chief Counts. “A lot of these guys weren’t in the fire service that day, and don’t know what it was like.”

C Platoon will be working on this year’s Sept. 11. Some Salem Firefighters will be at the Roanoke Valley regional 9/11 remembrance on Sunday afternoon in downtown Roanoke. You’ll be able to recognize them. They will be wearing those shirts.

About the author

Meg Hibbert

Meg Hibbert held the position of editor of the Salem Times-Register and The New Castle Record from July 1999 - July 2014. She won more than two dozen awards from the Virginia Press Association for feature writing, columns, business articles, health and environmental writing and education coverage. She and her husband, Bill, live in Salem and are avid University of Georgia Bulldogs.

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