Las Vegas First Responders Commemorate 9/11

Bells Toll At Time First Plane Hit WTC

Mitch Kelly
September 11, 2019 - 5:50 am

Ethan Miller/Getty Images


LAS VEGAS, NV (KXNT) - A remembrance tribute was held this morning to all those who lost their lives Sept. 11, 2001, in the World Trade Center attack. A longtime tradition in the fire service known as the “Tolling of the Bells” will be used for the remembrance.

At 6:50 a.m., (the approximate time of the South Tower collapse at the World Trade Center) a bell was rung in front of Las Vegas Fire Station Five at Charleston and Valley View. The tribute was transmitted over the Las Vegas Fire & Rescue's communications channel in tribute to all those who lost their lives that day.

The ringing of the bell is a longtime tradition of the fire service known as the “tolling of the bells.” Many years before radio communications existed in the fire service, communication was done via fire alarm boxes on street corners that were assigned a “box number” much like an address. Firefighters had to memorize the box numbers and their locations. When a person pulled a fire alarm, the signal would go to all the fire stations by wire and ring the bell in the stations. The bell would ring the number issued to that box and firefighters would respond. Fire dispatch would also have designated ringing of the bells to alert department members of certain events.

If a firefighter was killed in the line of duty, fire dispatch would ring the bell in sets of five, three times. This would let everyone on the department know that a firefighter had just lost his or her life in the line of duty.

After the bell ringing and flag raising, retired New York City firefighter sang the National Anthem. Frank Pizarro was a firefighter assigned to FDNY Engine 76 and was off duty when the first plane struck the World Trade Center. Pizarro saw the incident unfolding on his TV.

He, like many other off duty firefighters, got into their cars and drove to their assigned fire stations to see if they could help. When Pizarro got to his station, a number of other off duty firefighters were arriving and they loaded into a fire hydrant maintenance vehicle parked at the station and headed off to the World Trade Center. When they arrived, the first tower had already fallen.

They started helping as best they could in the rubble. As they were searching for victims, the second tower started to come down atop them. The firefighters retreated into a parking garage which saved their lives. Pizarro, like many other firefighters, stayed on scene working the collapse for several consecutive days. Pizarro, a Las Vegas resident, asked to be a part of the tribute by singing the National Anthem. Pizarro is a professional singer, he was lead singer with the Platters for several years.  

In addition, to the ringing of the bells, a special United States flag that once flew over the World Trade Center was hoisted to half-staff on the flagpole in front of Fire Station Five. Also on display in front of the station is a piece of steel from the World Trade Center. The city of New York has requested that the special flag be flown over the piece of steel at half-staff Sept. 11 each year. 

It has been done every year since the city received the flag in 2004.