I’ve always been aware of the role of first responders, but it wasn’t until I married into a whole family of them that I realized just how many sacrifices they make, and how at risk they put themselves for our safety.

On September 11, 2001, we lost 412 first responders. Those who died were 343 firefighters, 37 police officers of the Port Authority of New York and the New Jersey Police Department, 23 police officers from the New York City Police Department, eight emergency medical technicians and paramedics from private emergency services, and one patrolman from the New York Fire Patrol.

412 first responders lost aboard hijacked planes, and lost while running in as everyone else ran out. 412 parents, spouses, kids, and friends never had the chance to say their goodbyes to these heroes.

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One of those who died that fateful day was a firefighter named Charles “Chucky” Mendez. Mendez was the uncle of Nikki Dee, a young woman who turned to song writing as a way to deal with the overwhelming emotions she felt following the September 11th attacks. Nikki would go on to sing backup for Josh Groban, open for the Barenaked Ladies, and make it through the Hollywood rounds on American Idol.

It was at American Idol that Nikki met fellow contestant, Joe Banau. Joe grew up with a father who was a touring musician and Joe got a personal taste of the music industry as a guitar player for Christian contemporary and worship artists before serving as a church music director.

In 2014, Joe married Rachel, a woman who’d lost her first husband in an accidental off duty death. Rachel’s first husband was both a firefighter and police officer and although she was intensely in love with Joe, Rachel realized that she hadn't fully allowed herself to grieve the death of her husband. Through her healing process, Rachel sat down with Joe and they began work on writing the lyrics to a song they would call "Sirens." Joe realized that "Sirens" needed something to elevate it to the next level and that something was the vocal talent of his Idol friend, Nikki, the one who’d lost her uncle in the September 11th attacks.

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In June of 2016, the song “Sirens” was completed. Little did anyone know that just four days after the completion of the song, a mass shooting would take place in an Orlando night club, then a month later a sniper would kill five police officers in Dallas. The pain wouldn't end there. Ten days after the sniper attack in Dallas, three more officers would be lost in Baton Rouge.

“Sirens” has become something of an anthem for first responders, a song that they can play for their family and loved ones to remind them, "When you hear sirens... don't worry for me."

On September 11th, 2017, we started what will become a yearly tradition of playing "Sirens"- our way of reminding our first responders that we’ve got their back. Always.

[via NYFD/CNN/USA Today/World Memorial/NY Daily News/A Thousand Miles]