Retiree John Schmidt said Wednesday that he worries that the tragic events of 9/11 and people’s subsequent heroic actions won’t be properly remembered as time passes.

“It concerns me as each year goes by that there seems to be less and less coverage,” said Schmidt, 67. “We can never forget what happened that day. There were people jumping to their deaths from burning buildings.”

Schmidt, the former postmaster of Cedar Creek, Nebraska, was among a handful of citizens who watched Wednesday morning as the crew of Omaha Fire Station No. 1 observed a minute of silence outside the station near 15th and Jackson Streets. Firetrucks all across the city were pulled out of their stations with emergency lights flashing during the observance.

Schmidt, who now lives in Omaha, said he made a point of being on hand to observe the short ceremony. He remembers experiencing a feeling of helplessness on Sept. 11, 2001, when he was unable to contact a niece living in New York City.

Late that night, he finally heard that his niece was safe. A day later, Schmidt learned that his niece and her boyfriend had become engaged.

The attacks “spurred their marriage because it made them realize that time is short,” Schmidt said. “You never know what will happen next. When that first tower came down, it was the most shocking sight I’ve ever seen in my life.”

Sign up for The World-Herald's afternoon updates

Receive a summary of the day’s popular and trending stories from Omaha.com.

Inside Fire Station No. 1, Battalion Chief Troy Brannen said the events of 9/11 are on the minds of firefighters and other first responders every day. The world has changed dramatically, he said, and firefighters are keenly aware that terrorism could occur at any time.

“We didn’t think about terrorism occurring in the U.S. before 9/11,” Brannen said. “We saw it happening in other countries, but we really didn’t think too much about it happening here.”

In the Sept. 11 attacks of 2001, 2,977 people were killed and more than 6,000 others were injured in New York City; Washington, D.C.; and outside of Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Among those who died were 343 firefighters who died at the World Trade Center and on the ground in New York City, 23 New York City police officers and 37 Port Authority officers.

“Those brave 343 firefighters in New York made that ultimate sacrifice on 9/11, and while doing so were able to save many more lives that day,” said Battalion Chief Scott Fitzpatrick, a Fire Department spokesman. “While not everybody was able to be saved, many more would have met a terrible fate if it were not for the first responders at the towers and Pentagon.”

Brannen said first responders continue to die from illnesses they developed later. This summer, Congress passed legislation to extend funding for the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund through 2090, weeks after the bill received nationwide attention following impassioned pleas for support from surviving first responders and comedian Jon Stewart.

“We recall the 343 (firefighters) who died Sept. 11, but there are people continuing to suffer,” Brannen said. “People are dying every day.”