A week after 9/11, firefighter Jason Kerr and eight of his Jacksonville brothers traveled to New York City. They observed the ongoing rescue efforts at Ground Zero so they would know what to do if they found themselves having to respond to a similar attack here.
"I remember to this day getting off the subway that September and the smell of burnt metal, almost like a rustic smell," Kerr said in a phone interview. "And you come around the corner and here's almost a 16-acre site that is just piled into so much destruction. And you wink, you're like, 'OK, cut,' almost something out of a movie. You just can't believe the devastation that took place."
Every September since, Kerr has gone back.
"For me, it resolidifies my profession as a firefighter and how selfless first responders are, willing to lay down their lives for other people and pay that ultimate sacrifice," he said. "So I call it a grounding moment, and that's why I try to encourage as many firefighters in our area to come up here because it's something that I really think adds to life experiences in your career."
This year, three of them from Jacksonville made the trip up. They joined about 4,000 other firefighters from all over the world for a ceremony at Westside Memorial Park to hear the names of the 343 fallen firefighters read aloud.
Kerr knew three of those fallen men. He said 9/11 is emotional, but it's a reminder of what life is all about -- giving to others.
"Every day a firefighter rushes in and puts his life on the line for a citizen, and I just want people to know that this is what we do and we're very appreciative of their support," he said.