Texas law makes Sept. 11 a holiday for firefighters


By WENDY HUNDLEY / The Dallas Morning News

A new state law makes Sept. 11 a holiday for firefighters. But some don't know about it and might not be able to skip work that day anyway.

"I'm not aware of one," Ernest Gurule, a spokesman for Dallas Fire-Rescue, said of the statewide holiday commemorating firefighters' sacrifices during the 2001 terrorist attacks.

"I had no idea it had been voted on," said Chris Sweet, treasurer and past president of the Lewisville Firefighters Association.

While the new law hasn't received much publicity, "it's something I wanted to do to honor firefighters," said Rep. Armando Walle, D-Houston, who authored the law that takes effect Sept. 1.

In the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, 343 New York firefighters and paramedics were killed. A total of 60 New York and Port Authority police officers also died.

Police were originally included in the bill but were removed at the request of the Houston Police Officers' Union, which felt the bill would have eliminated an optional floating holiday for their members, a spokesman said.

In Lewisville, the City Council approved the Sept. 11 holiday for firefighters but eliminated Labor Day to comply with a requirement that all city employees have the same number of paid holidays.

In Plano, firefighters will have the Sept. 11 holiday as a substitute for one of two Christmas-week holidays, Dec. 24 or Dec. 27.

"As we move away from 2001, we're concerned that it's being forgotten in people's minds," said Peggy Harrell, a spokeswoman for the Plano Fire Department. "This is one way that it's being observed."

While firefighters appreciate the holiday, many will still have to work their regular shifts on Sept. 11.

"It's not like we shut down for Sept. 11," said Steve Carter, a division chief for the Lewisville Fire Department.

"To the best of my knowledge, Dallas Fire-Rescue will be operating as normal on Sept. 11," Gurule said.