One of the first women firefighters, Brenda Berkman, has led over a decade-long fight to highlight the role of women as first responders during 9/11.
20 years on, the attack on the Twin Towers still dominates the public memory of the world – but Brenda Berkman is fighting to show that we are remembering wrong.
Berkman was off duty when the first tower was hit on September 11th 2001, but raced into action alongside her fellow firefighters.
On the day, three women first responders were killed at Ground Zero, and Berkman knew 250 of the 343 firefighters who lost their lives.
However, in the news coverage in the following weeks and months Berkman noticed a distinct lack of recognition for the effort of women in the aftermath.
Berkman recalled that there was no acknowledgement that women like her were ‘doing exactly the same thing that the men were doing.’
Instead, the media focused on the heroism of the firemen and policemen – any coverage of women put them in more traditional roles, as widows or nurses.
‘They were saying there were no women firefighters killed there and so, therefore, there weren’t any women there,’ Berkman said.
‘It’s like we had to be killed doing our job.’