THEY were called the heroes of 9/11 — the 343 firefighters who lost their lives in the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre as they fought to rescue those trapped in New York’s Twin Towers.

And as those brave men were remembered a year to the day after the terror attacks which changed the world, standing shoulder to shoulder with colleagues in a trans-Atlantic show of solidarity was Bolton firefighter Ian Bailey.

Mr Bailey had made a personal decision to mark the first anniversary at Ground Zero to remember those who lost their lives.

He had previously met firefighters from New York, one of whom had been seriously injured while attending to casualties in the World Trade Centre.

But when he stood with thousands of firefighters remembering those who had lost their lives — including 343 from the New York Fire Department — the father-of-three was representing all of Greater Manchester firefighters at the special ceremony held where the Twin Towers once stood in Lower Manhattan.

Mr Bailey, borough commander for Bolton, said: “I was proud to have been there.

“It was eerie as the VIPs went down the ramp into the hole. As they did, they were momentarily lost in clouds of dust which swept up due to the breeze. “A firefighter said to me that the weather on the first anniversary was exactly the same as it was a year ago.

“While I stood there, it was hard to comprehend the events that had happened.”

Mr Bailey spent four days in New York, staying at Engine Company 4, Ladder 15, where he was reunited with firefighter Joe Torrillo —injured while pulling people from the Twin Towers when one of them collapsed — and colleague Tommy Gogarty.

Their company lost 12 firefighters in 9/11.

Mr Bailey had previously arranged for the two firefighters to come to the UK for a fundraising football match between ex-Manchester United players and former Manchester City stars for families of those firefighters who had been injured or killed in the terrorist attacks.

Mr Bailey said: “After the tragedy, a small amount of money was left at Fire Service Headquarters where I was based at the time, and through other donations and fundraising events, more than £250,000 was raised for the families of the firefighters who had died or been injured in the terrorist attack.”

On the first anniversary, Mr Bailey was one of many firefighters from around the world to join the New York Fire Department for the emotional day.

Families of firefighters who had been killed or injured joined them in the station that morning, ahead of the ceremony.

“The captain there told the families that together they could get through the day.

“I think the firefighters did appreciate the support from those who had travelled for the anniversary.”

Mr Bailey said there is a special bond between firefighters, no matter where they are based. Similar messages of support were sent to Bolton when local firefighter Steve Morris was injured while attempting to rescue a family from a house fire.

“The fire service is different to other professions,”

Mr Bailey said.

“There is a genuine interest in how other stations operate elsewhere, but also because of the nature of the work and the risks.

“Every year, firefighters here mark the 9/11 anniversary with a minute’s silence.”

During his poignant visit to New York, Mr Bailey was presented with a book documenting September 11, from a construction worker.

“It was a big, thick book costing about $55 dollars and he just gave it to me.

That was a personal moment for me,” he said.

“I wish there had been no cause to go, but I was pleased to have had the opportunity to go and stand there and pay my respects.”

● Tomorrow: Firefighters geared up for attacks