9/11 remembered: Chicago-area first responders mark 11th anniversary

September 11, 2012 (CHICAGO)

At the Skokie Village Fire Department, crews rang bells and also offered a moment of silence.

"Three hundred and forty-three firefighters and paramedics died trying to help other people. Of course, many other hundreds of other civilians that died, and so I think the we have to remember them," Captain Jeff Hoeflich, Skokie Fire Department, said.

Captain Hoeflich was one of many first responders who went to New York to help fellow firefighters. He also attended several funerals in a show of support.

"It helped me to be there to do whatever I could," Captain Hoeflich said. "We were not heroes. We were there to support our brothers."

Firefighter Joseph Raklowski's first child was born prematurely and was on a monitor for breathing problems. But he said he had to go to help even though his wife and father protested.

"I felt it was my patriotic duty. The firemen need help, this is what I need to do," he said. "It was a situation where the firemen need help. I will never forget it until the day I die."

Recent British studies state that rescue workers continue to suffer with respiratory illness, depression, post traumatic stress disorder and an increased risk for developing a number of cancers.

"Sadly, it is part of the job and we do all that we can to prevent that from happening. It is kind of nature of the beast. I did what I thought I had to do," said Rakowski.

"There is no doubt that people suffering from cancer now is a result of the work that they did at Ground Zero," said Hoeflich.

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