On 20th anniversary of 9/11, firefighters in Anchorage honor those who made ‘supreme sacrifice’ in line of duty

Dozens of people gathered at the Alaska Fallen Firefighter Memorial in downtown Anchorage on Saturday for a special procession marking the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and to remember Alaska’s fallen firefighters.

Fifth Avenue was temporarily closed for a procession involving the Central Mat-Su Fire Department, Anchorage Fire Department and Chugiak Volunteer Fire and Rescue. They were led by the Anchorage Fire Fighters Local 1264 Pipes & Drums Band.

The event paid tribute to firefighters in Alaska who made the “supreme sacrifice” in the line of duty — including Scott McClain, an Anchorage Fire Department firefighter who died from a work-related cancer in 2020.

McClain began as a junior firefighter with the Chugiak Volunteer Fire Department when he was 16, and eventually worked with the Division of Forestry and the state of Alaska. He was hired by the Anchorage Fire Department in 2001 and medically retired in 2014.

McClain’s 21-year-old daughter, Kaylee McClain, said it was heartwarming to see everyone who worked with and cared about her dad at Saturday’s event. Kaylee is a firefighter with the Chugiak department, and came on board as a junior firefighter when she was just 15.

“My whole family, in some portion, have been in the fire service,” she said in an interview Saturday. “It’s tough. There are no words.”

Anchorage Fire Chief Douglas Schrage spoke during Saturday’s ceremony about firefighters’ commitment to service and the legacy of McClain, whose name was added to the memorial.

“Today we honor one of our own with a permanent place in our hearts and in the wall behind me,” Schrage said. “Twenty years from now and 20 years after that, you will find us here, and all throughout America, putting on our best uniforms, displaying the names of our 9/11 heroes, placing flags and sounding the last alarm.”

Earlier in the day, Anchorage resident Mike Webb saw his neighbor standing outside, holding up an American flag on an Abbott Road sidewalk for a period of time that spanned the duration of the Sept. 11 attacks.

That inspired Webb to follow suit, holding up his own flag and bringing his children along.

“I thought I’d bring the kids down so they’d have some connection to the day,” he said.

Webb’s children were born after 2001. His wife was pregnant with their eldest the year of the attacks.

“I think it’s important in terms of honoring the people who passed,” Webb said. “People really took stock of what it means to live in a community.”

Daily News photojournalist Emily Mesner contributed reporting.