Governor Bruce Rauner recognizes Illinois' first responders on the anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks, during the annual Illinois Emergency Management Agency conference in Springfield.

"We will always remember.  We will never forget," says Rauner.

Rauner calls the first responders "the ultimate public servants", and says he's been behind them since early on in his administration.

"Third day in office last January, I came to visit our statewide terrorism and intelligence center," says Rauner.  "I've been with many of you around the state as we've suffered through one of our worst years of natural disasters -- tornadoes, floods.  You guys have been there, done an extraordinary job."

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Mike Chamness -- former Illinois Emergencty Management Agency Director and Chair of the Illinois Terrorism Task Force -- says that task force actually started in the year BEFORE 9/11, thanks to former Illinois State Police Deputy Director Doug Brown.

"The only reason I had the privilege of chairing that, in the beginning, was Doug had the wisdom to understand that if State Police took the lead, perhaps other agencies might not participate," says Chamness.  "He viewed IEMA as kind of like Switzerland."

Chamness says the state's system was built on trust, and was done before federal money was added.  He told IEMA's conference in Springfield local emergency managers are what keep the system going.

Rauner says there continue to be "evil people" working to hurt Americans, and there continue to be disasters we can't anticipate.  And it's our first responders that will always be up to the task of protecting us.
(Copyright WBGZ / )