Remembering Black Firefighters Who Died On 9/11

Photo: Getty Images

22 years ago, roughly 3,000 people were killed during terrorist attacks that were carried out on September 11th. Four commercial planes were hijacked, with two of those crashing into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City and a third plane hitting the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.

Almost 10,000 people were injured but survived in part due to the 343 firefighters who sacrificed their own lives to respond to the attacks. Of those firefighters who lost their lives, 12 were members of the New York City Fire Department (FDNY)’s Black Vulcan Society, an organization established in 1940 due to discrimination in the department.

The fallen Black firefighters of the Vulcan Society include Gerard Baptiste, Vernon Cherry, Tarel Coleman, Andre Fletcher, Keith Glascoe, Ronnie Henderson, William Henry, Karl Joseph, Keithroy Maynard, Vernon Richard, Shawn Powell, and Leon Smith Jr, per New York Amsterdam News.

Capt. Paul Washington, former Vulcan Society president, said the majority of the firefighters were inside or right outside the Twin Towers when they came crashing down.

“It’s up to us to keep the memory alive. They made the ultimate sacrifice,” Washington said.

“While the city may forget, the families don’t,” said Vulcan member and Firefighter Greg Shepherd. “A lot of these people had kids and some of them are firefighters now. I bet you they never forgot either. For us it’s about helping the families. They’re our extended family.”

Karl Joseph's sister, Leila Joseph, said her family keeps his memory alive through a foundation they started for the youth in Haiti.

“We started a foundation in memory of him for Haiti,” she said. “The reason we did it was also when the earthquake happened in Haiti, everybody was going down there. And I knew there was like a group of firefighters in FDNY who actually went to Haiti.”

Monique, Shawn Powell's sister, said her brother used to split his time between the military and fire department.

“He’s very kind, very caring,” Monique said. “I just miss him because he’s my brother. And I miss that support of him being my brother.”

Kevin Maynard followed in the footsteps of his brother Keithroy and became a firefighter. Though Kevin now serves in Houston, he refuses to change his phone number and area code to keep a connection with New York City, where his brother made the ultimate sacrifice. Kevin said he feels a great sense of pride when he visits his mom in the city and sees Black firefighters.

“I see the fire trucks, and I see all these brothers on these fire trucks,” Kevin said. “It makes me feel sad that my brother’s not here to enjoy some of it.”

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