We all remember where we were 11 years ago today when we heard the news of the disastrous events unfolding in New York and Washington, DC. Time stood still as we turned on our television sets to watch terrorism’s arrival on American soil. The images we witnessed then still seem unreal today, more than a decade after the twin towers fell.

For first responders trained to react to emergency situations, news of the disaster required more than bearing witness to the events. The firefighters, police officers and EMTs trained in disaster preparedness responded with action, and it is their bravery and selfless devotion to duty that we remember today.

Among those who responded to the disaster were the search dog teams trained to find people buried alive. These remarkable dogs and their handlers prepare year-round and are ready to be deployed at a moment’s notice wherever they are needed in the world.

A search dog is honored in this memorial to those who responded to the events of September 11, 2001. Photo by Dan Sayers.

The National Disaster Search Dog Foundation in Ojai, Calif., is a nonprofit, nongovernmental organization that partners rescued dogs with firefighters throughout the U.S. at no cost to fire departments and other emergency service agencies. Search Dog Foundation lists 13 teams that were deployed to the World Trade Center disaster, including three civilians and their trained canine partners.

The organization’s website states, “Since the tragedy of 9/11, SDF search teams have been called upon by state agencies across the country to serve as the first responders to numerous disasters, including hurricanes, earthquakes, mud slides, train derailments and building collapses. Whether responding to a major national disaster, or one closer to home, SDF teams stand ready to serve.” More than 30 deployments are listed on the website, including 2005’s Hurricane Katrina and the 2010 earthquake in Haiti.

Although all dogs provide support to people in one form or another, only a very few are called to a life of devoted service to mankind. We honor these heroes today, and give thanks to the men and women who are prepared to respond whenever and wherever they are needed.