Skip to main content

South Valley Journal

20th anniversary of 9/11 provides lesson for future first responders

Sep 29, 2021 01:14PM ● By Jet Burnham

A mournful bagpipe solo precedes a moment of silence on the 20th anniversary of 9/11. (Photo courtesy of Jordan School District.)

By Jet Burnham | [email protected]

Students in the fire science, EMT and criminal justice classes at Jordan Academy of Technology and Careers South Campus were pushed physically and emotionally as they performed 440 repetitions of pushups, sit-ups and burpees and climbed 110 flights of stairs. The exercise was held Sept. 11, in remembrance and respect of the sacrifice of 440 first responders who lost their lives in the 9/11 tragedy, and the 110 flights of stairs they climbed in the World Trade Center before the towers collapsed.

“I want it to be a special event for them,” said fire science and EMT instructor Richard Clayton, who arranges the exercise for his students every year on the anniversary of the tragedy. “They don't have a recollection-- they all were born post 9/11 and they've never lived in a world other than that. So, trying to get them to have an understanding relationship with it is what was one of our goals.”

Clayton said the experience is a lesson in understanding and appreciating the service and the sacrifices required in first responder professions. To prepare students for the mental and emotional demands of these types of jobs, Clayton believes the best lesson is failure, which he ensures that his students experience regularly.

“The ones that pick themselves back up in the face of failure are usually the ones that will be there when the chips are down and the risks are high,” he said. “So, I try to see how far they can push themselves and then the ones that find it in themselves to push just a little bit further, then that's when you know you have somebody special.”

Many students graduate from JATC programs and go straight into industry jobs. One of last year’s students spent this summer fighting wildland fires in Oregon and California. Three others are saving lives working in ambulances.

Clayton graduated from the first EMT class offered at JATC 28 years ago. He was also in the first recruit camp of the Salt Lake County Fire Department post 9/11, when he said there were ten times the number of applicants to join the department in the wake of the tragedy.