Under the bright morning sunshine, area first responders gathered Saturday at the Lake Charles Civic Center for Emergency Responder Appreciation Day and to pay tribute to their comrades lost in the 9/11 attacks nearly 20 years ago.

Andy Patrick, meteorologist with the National Weather Service and president of the Southwest Louisiana Mutual Aid Association, officiated the opening ceremony and began by introducing Mayor Nic Hunter, who offered his personal thanks for the job done by these selfless men and women each and every day.

“Today we are here to show our gratitude to our everyday heroes,” Hunter said.

Representatives of each branch of law enforcement took the stage to read poetry and prayers that personified their roles in the community, while some of their fellow comrades in blue gathered beneath the raised ladders of two Lake Charles fire trucks to await their turn at running the iconic 110 flights of stairs — representative of the number of stairs first responders had to climb to attempt to save lives in the 9/11 attacks.

Jimmy Boyette, who works full time at Sasol as part of their emergency response team and also volunteers his time with the Ward 1 fire department in Moss Bluff, was among those who participated in the stair climb.

“Over 343 firefighters died responding to the 9/11 attacks,” Boyette said. “I’m here to honor them.”

While the physical activities were taking place lakeside, local law enforcement also offered several family friendly educational booths indoors.

Michael Thomas, a firefighter with the Sulphur Fire Department, spent his Saturday morning manning an inflatable “house fire” which appeared to one of the biggest hits of the day. Children and parents alike walked into the house, which simulated a fire complete with thick “smoke.” Thomas said he was glad for the opportunity to be out in the community providing education to those who need it most — children.

“It is always important to reach out to the community; especially to kids,” Thomas said. “It’s good to make sure they know what to do if they ever encounter an emergency situation like this.”

All proceeds from the day have been earmarked to support the Louisiana Fallen Firefighters Memorial and the Walk of Honor Foundation.

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