Eighteen years ago, three different sites in the northeast United States were attacked by terrorists. The attacks, which would forever change our way of life, were also an inspiration for some that would go on to become or continue to be first responders. Read some of their stories today in our special section in the print edition of the News-Herald.
Del Rio Fire Department Firefighter James Denney has worked for the city of Del Rio Fire Department for about 12 years. He has also served as a part-time firefighter for the Val Verde County Fire Department for about a year.
Denney was born and raised in Del Rio and graduated from Del Rio High School in 1999.
“My brother, Ben Denney, got me into firefighting He’s been here a little bit longer than I have. He told me he thought this would be a fitting job for me, so I went ahead and took the entrance exam and passed it, and I got picked up,” Denney recalled.
He said he believed his brother picked the perfect career for him.
“I love this job. I love the fact that I give back to the community. This is a fun job, a blast, and the guys you get to work with are the most down-to-earth guys you’ll ever meet, but the real reason I love it is that you get to do something very positive in your community,” Denney said.
Denney said he was working for the Border Patrol as a student aide on Sept. 11, 2001.
“I was there when it all happened. We were working outside as we usually did, and they came and told us what was going on, and everything pretty much stopped. A man I knew very well and one of his co-workers were in New York at the time, so it hit pretty close to home. It was pretty scary,” Denney said.
Denney said the attacks and the deaths of the firefighters in the collapse of the towers brought home the sacrifices emergency responders are ready to make.
“It changed me in the sense that when I first got in here I didn’t really know what the job was about,” he said.
Denney participates in the annual 9/11 Tower Climb in San Antonio, held each year on the anniversary of the attacks to commemorate the fallen.
“This will be my seventh years doing it. We climb for the 343 firefighters who didn’t make it to the top, and we climb for the 70-something police officers who didn’t make it,” he said.
At least 10 first responders from the local area participate in the event.
“It’s 130 floors we climb to the top of the Tower of the Americas. We climb up to the observation deck, which is the 65th floor, and we do that twice, in full gear, just like they did it. On average, we’re carrying 50 to 60 pounds of gear,” Denney said.
“I think about it every day of my life. It’s something that hits really close to home, not only because of the guys that didn’t make it, but I so many friends in this country that do this job, that give so much to this job. We don’t do it for ourselves. We do it for the people,” he said.