BIG LAKE — Waving flags and flashing the lights of their emergency vehicles, area first responders took part in an annual procession on Saturday evening to honor the nearly 3,000 people, including 343 firefighters, killed in the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

Saturday marked the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

The Big Lake Fire Department has held the procession each year since 2002, and fire districts from across the region participate.

Big Lake residents, many holding flags, stood at the side of the road to watch the emergency vehicles pass.

Before the procession began, Big Lake Fire Department chaplain Dennis Spinnie asked those gathered at the fire station if they could recall where they were the day of the 9/11 attacks.

Nearly everyone in the room raised their hands.

Spinnie said first responders risk their own lives — like those who ran into the World Trade Center towers in New York City on 9/11 — so others can live.

“We remind ourselves of what it takes to live life for someone else, as firefighters, EMTs, and police officers,” he said. “We really do serve others.”

Spinnie then led attendees in a prayer before the procession began.

Katy Olson, district secretary for Clear Lake Fire Department, said she and her husband, a firefighter, have taken part in the procession for many years.

She said her favorite moment is listening to Spinnie’s prayer each year before the emergency vehicles depart. With firefighters and their families gathered from so many districts, it can be overwhelming and emotional, she said.

She said it’s important to honor first responders who have sacrificed their lives, as well as the families who were left behind.

Olson said she has been having conversations with her two boys, 12 and 7, about the significance of Sept. 11.

She said her kids understand when their dad receives an emergency call, it’s to go help someone in need.

— Reporter Jacqueline Allison:, 360-416-2145, Twitter: @Jacqueline_SVH

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