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This fall marks the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The attacks on September 11, 2001 remain the deadliest terror attacks in world history, claiming more than 2,900 lives and causing countless injuries and long-term health problems for tens of thousands of civilians and first responders.

The 20th anniversary of 9/11 will no doubt evoke responses that span the emotional spectrum. Sadness may dominate such responses, but the anniversary of 9/11 also is a great time to reflect on the efforts of first responders. First responders played a vital role on 9/11, and many lost their lives and/or suffered long-term health consequences resulting from their selfless efforts to save innocent victims of the attacks.

In the two decades since the 9/11 attacks, first responders have continued to make countless sacrifices to ensure their communities are safe and peaceful places to call home. The 20th anniversary of 9/11 is a great time to recognize the efforts of first responders and honor them for all they do.

Donate to local fire departments. ♦ According to the U.S. Fire Administration, 54 percent of active firefighting personnel are volunteers. Many of those volunteer firefighters work for underfunded departments that are in need of financial support. Donating to such departments is a great way to show first responders how much their efforts are appreciated. Donations may be used to purchase new equipment, upgrade existing facilities, provide vital training, and/or improve response times, the latter of which can increase the likelihood that firefighters make it through calls safe and sound.

Back legislation to support wounded first responders.♦ Many first responders suffer significant mental and physical injuries while on the job. Various nonprofit organizations help wounded first responders who may need to make modifications to their homes or purchase costly equipment to get through their daily lives. But nonprofit organizations cannot go it alone in support of wounded first responders. Citizens can do their part by promoting and voting for local, state and national legislation that makes it easy for wounded first responders to get the help they need, when they need it. In addition to urging local politicians to support such legislation, private citizens can utilize social media to promote proposals and other efforts to support wounded first responders. Many 9/11 first responders are still fighting for government-backed support to treat injuries suffered 20 years ago, and a vocal citizenry can be a strong asset in their fight and the fight of countless others in need of help.

Commit to supporting first responders year-round. ♦ The 20th anniversary of 9/11 will call attention to the efforts of first responders on that day 20 years ago as well as the countless times since then that these brave men and women have served their communities. But first responders deserve vocal, year-round support. Make a concerted effort to thank policemen, firefighters, EMTs, nurses, and doctors in your community whenever you interact with them, and urge others to follow suit.

First responders play a vital role in communities across the globe. The 20th anniversary of 9/11 can serve as a catalyst for communities to express their support for first responders.

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