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Today marks the 19th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001. On this solemn day, as we take time to remember and honor the fallen, let’s not forget the courageous four-legged heroes of September 11th.
In the days following the attacks, nearly 10,000 emergency rescue workers joined in the efforts to help the rescue and recovery efforts at the World Trade Center and Pentagon. More than 300 of those heroes were dogs, representing the largest deployment of dogs in the nation’s history.
Teams of dogs and handlers specially trained in search and rescue, police work, therapy and comfort were deployed to aid the search and rescue efforts. These dedicated doggies with their human counterparts comforted the distressed, and climbed over and through mountains of destruction dutifully seeking signs of victims. Here are three stories about incredible canine heroes of the September 11th terrorist attacks:
Apollo was a German Shepherd, who worked with the first New York Police Department K-9 Urban Search and Rescue Team. Apollo and his handler, Pete Davis, arrived at the South Tower just 15 minutes after it collapsed, making them the first search-and-rescue dog team on site after the attacks.
The German Shepherd and his handler spent nearly 18 hours each day searching for survivors.
During their search efforts, Apollo nearly lost his life to flames and falling debris. By luck, he was soaking wet from falling in a pool of water and was narrowly missed by falling flames and debris. He went right back to work after his handler brushed some debris off of him. Apollo continued to work diligently until he showed signs of extreme exhaustion and required treatment.
On March 5, 2002, Apollo received the Dickin Medal, the animal equivalent of the Victoria Cross, on behalf of all search and rescue dogs who assisted in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks.
Bretagne (pronounced Brit-nee) was a golden retriever trained in search-and-rescue from outside of Houston Texas. At the young age of two years old, Bretagne and her handler, Capt. Denise Corliss of the Cy-Fair Volunteer Fire Department, deployed to Ground Zero as a part of the Texas Task Force 1. This was their first deployment together and, while daunting, both Denise and Bretange were ready for the challenge.
Over a ten day mission at Ground Zero, Bretagne and her handler work 12 hour days searching for signs of victims. While trained as a search-and-rescue dog, Bretagne provided emotional support to the other emergency responders at Ground Zero.
During her seven years of active duty, Bretagne and her handler also deployed to search and rescue efforts of major hurricanes like Katrina, Rita and Ivan. In her retirement, she aided other search dogs in training and volunteered at a reading program at a local elementary school.
Just shy of her 17th birthday, Bretagne passed peacefully surrounded by her devoted companions, Denise and Randy Corliss. Bretagne received a hero’s farewell from her fellow members of the rescue team Texas Task Force 1 and the Cy-Fair Volunteer Fire Department. She was the last known surviving dog that responded to Ground Zero.
Trakr, a German Shepherd from Halifax, Nova Scotia, was trained as a police dog and worked for six years, helping find people, evidence and stolen goods. Prior to deploying to Ground Zero, Trakr had a prolific reputation and was credited with hundreds of arrests and recovered more than one million dollars in stolen goods.
On September 11th, Trakr and his handler, Canadian Police Officer James Symington, drove 15 hours to help the recovery and rescue efforts. Upon arriving, Trakr and his handler got right to work locating numerous victims. On September 12th, roughly 27 hours after the first plane hit, Trakr located Genelle Guzman-MicMillan, the last survivor to be found beneath the rubble.
On September 14th, after working tirelessly for days, Trakr collapsed from smoke and chemical inhalation, burns, and exhaustion. Thankfully, he was treated for his injuries and able to return home with his handler, James.
In the later years of his life, Trakr remained dedicated to helping others. He loved visiting children’s organizations, schools and hospitals, always taking a little extra time with those who needed him most. Trakr passed away in April of 2009 at the age of 16.
These are just three of the amazing doggies, who risked their lives to save others on September 11th, 2001. The 9/11 Memorial & Museum’s South Tower Gallery has a temporary exhibition called K-9 Courage, which honors the hundreds of dogs that participated in the response to the 9/11 attacks. The exhibit is on display until December 2021. Click here for a virtual tour of the exhibit and to learn more about these four-legged heroes.
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