Monday, September 10, 2012

Where Were You?

Tomorrow marks 11 years since the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Every year ceremonies are held marking the date that is by far the darkest in American history. Do you remember where you were? Or what you were doing?

I was working in the firehouse. B platoon at Engine 55. The inner city. Two minutes from the geographical epicenter of Philadelphia. I was the assigned driver on that day so it was my responsibility to check out & wash the apparatus, then clean the tools.

When the first plane hit I was washing some of the tools that had been used earlier on a grass/brush fire under the railroad tracks on 5th Street. My lieutenant came out and called me inside. When I got to the watch desk area all I saw was a flaming hole in the World Trade Center.

When the second plane hit there was dead silence in the firehouse. We had all been watching on television. By now, we knew it was a terrorist attack. As the FDNY & NYPD responded, we began to discuss how this would would be handled. It was early still and the buildings would have to be evacuated and there were tactical issues as far as firefighting was concerned. Do you attack the fire head on? Do you allow the sprinklers to do their job? What do you do?

Then the towers started collapsing. Again, dead silence in the firehouse. You could hear a pin drop. Looks of shock registering on the faces of my co workers. It is the only time in my life that I've seen a room full of men in tears. We knew when everyone was running out of those towers that our brothers in the FDNY were running in, doing what they were trained to do.

Not long after, the Pentagon was hit and an airliner crashed in a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
We were, as a nation, under attack.

A short time later an announcement came over the PA system stating we were on our highest alert. Then it started. We ran our asses off that day. Medical responses, auto fires, a bedroom on fire. I remember thinking all day, each time we responded, "Are we next?" "Am I going to go home today?" It's the only time in my career that I've confronted my mortality and wondered "what if?"

This was truly the saddest day of my career in the fire service.

Over 2,700 people perished on 9/11/01. 343 of them were brother firefighters from New York. I'll never forget & they will always remain in my memory.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment if you wish. 

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