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. 343 of those who lost their lives were firefighters, 37 were police officers of the Port Authority of New York and the New Jersey Police Department, 23 were police officers from the New York City Police Department, eight were emergency medical technicians and paramedics from private emergency services, and one of them was a patrolman from the New York Fire Patrol.

412 first responders who ran toward the chaos while everyone else was running away from it. 412 parents, spouses, kids, and friends who never had the chance to say their goodbyes to the ones they loved.

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One of the firefighters who lost his life on September 11, 2001, was a man named Charles “Chucky” Mendez. Mendez was the uncle of Nikki Dee, a young woman who turned to songwriting as a way to deal with the overwhelming emotions she was flooded with following the attacks. Nikki would go on to sing backup for Josh Groban, open for the Barenaked Ladies, be a regular National Anthem singer for the New York Mets, and make it through the Hollywood rounds on Season 11 of American Idol.

It was actually during Hollywood Week at American Idol that Nikki met fellow contestant, Joe Banau. Joe grew up in a musical household as his father was a touring musician and as an adult, Joe would go on to play guitar for Christian contemporary and worship artists before accepting a position as a church music director.

In 2014, Joe married Rachel, a woman who’d lost her first husband, a firefighter, and a police officer who was involved in an accidental off-duty death. Although intensely in love with Joe, Rachel was still struggling with the grief of her first husband's death and realized that she hadn't fully allowed herself to grieve. Through her healing process, Rachel sat down with Joe and together they began writing out 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 same woman who had lost her uncle in the September 11th attacks. Tragedy had brought them together

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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 nightclub, 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/NY Daily News/Brother Joe]