More than a free meal for first responders on Sept. 11

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DENISON, Tex. (KXII) -- The attack on the world trade center 18 years ago, is still fresh on many Texomans' minds.

One class in particular.

First responders know too well the sacrifice of the hundreds just like them who died that day.

On Wednesday, a restaurant more than 1500 miles away from Ground Zero honored their dedication.

The day that changed America forever began like any other.

But then, terror made its way to the sky, met with innocence, horror and disbelief.

"I just remember my wife calling me on the phone and she was telling me," said Southmayd firefighter Charles Bush. "She was freaking out."

"I was four years old," remembers Southmayd firefighter Skyler McKee.

"It just didn't seem real," said Bill Austin, a retired probation officer. "Just shock."

18 years later, the wounds are still raw.

"343 of my brothers died that day," said McKee. "So this day means a lot to me."

A stark reminder for first responders of their daily proximity to peril.

"It's something horrible that happened but it's always something, too, you know that we'll never forget," said Bush. "We'll never forget, ever."

It's that risk that Nick's Family Restaurant, in Denison, recognized on Wednesday.

"It's a blessing all in itself," said McKee. "For this place to take all of us in and say y'all have free meals."

They say there's comfort in coming together.

"It's something our country needs," said Austin. "We need to respect those people and honor them."

For a nation who is still healing and for the first responders still defending its uncertain future.

"It gets emotional sometimes to know that that many people died that day trying to save lives," said McKee.

"Kiss my wife goodbye and never go to bed mad, because you just don't know," said Bush.