9/11 First Account

“I was assigned to the NYC housing Police in 1984 and subsequently rolled over to the NYC Fire department in 1993. I was assigned to Engine 69 which is housed with 28 Truck and the 16th Battalion. We are known as The Harlem Hilton. Pretty much all fire companies have call signs like the military does. As with most companies we are full of history and company pride and have a rich tradition of excellent firefighters many of whom I had the privilege to learn from. On Sept. 10 I reported to duty at 6pm and was relieved at 7 am.
 
Sept. 11 morning:
I along with several firemen from my house were working at the NYC Fashion show doing security as a part time job. I remember being approached by one of the security supervisors who knew I was FDNY. He said a plane had struck the trade tower and I better come see the news flash on TV. I recall thinking it was probably a tourist plane or some sort of single engine private plane. I reached the TV around the same time as some of my FD friends and my jaw dropped at what I saw. The city is a no fly zone for commercial jets. After a quick discussion with some of the other fireman we decided to drive to our firehouse, gear up and go down with the men from my house. You learn to work as a team and obviously it's best to go into a dangerous situation with people you know. You look out for one another. I remember commandeering a city bus and heading down. We could hear the radio traffic from the working companies at the scene and the nervous voice of the dispatcher trying to coordinate the fire. At one point on our endless journey to get there the radio went silent. I remember the dispatcher calling companies and there being no response, I looked around at my friends most of whom were senior to me and there was a look on their faces. We all had the same thought that something had gone terribly wrong. That we may have lost at lot of brothers. 
There was a transmission of a collapse. and we were in shock. No one expected those buildings to give way. We arrived to utter chaos. We were on the west side highway a distance back. The towers fell west onto the highway and they had companies back because 7 World Trade was badly damaged and they feared another collapse. I recall this 50 story building coming down before my eyes in amazement. I could only imagine what one and two World Trade looked like. I spent the next 72 hours on scene doing various things none of which really matter. During that time I spoke to many of my brothers, some on the initial alarm. Questions of who was there. Who have they had not heard from. A lot of top ranking Chiefs were presumed dead. Word came of two close friends from my house Lieutenant Steve Bates and Captain Pat Brown were in the Towers. I later learn both had died during the collapse along with 30 or so friends from the academy or who I had the pleasure of working with. I spent the next several months in the recovery effort. I forgot most of the horrible stuff I saw. And thinking back it's a blessing the towers were not hit at 10 or 11 am. The death toll would be 10 thousand. From that day forward my life has changed. I had bouts where I struggled with anger, depression and alcohol. I bring this up not for sympathy but for us to recognize the struggles of soldiers who took the fight to there land. Yesterday August 30th the bodies of 13 young women and men returned home. People enjoyed there sports games and afternoons with friends while being protected by these young men and women. I was 39 went the towers were struck and if I struggled with what I saw, can you imagine what these kids deal with. They are my hero's ! During the months after Sept.11 I saw a different side of NYC. Going to the site ( I will never call it ground zero ) people would line the streets of the west side highway and cheer. Taking the subway back to Harlem covered in dust kids and adults looked at you in awe. The Police were respected. I remember one night I was on the apparatus floor of my firehouse on 143rd street. This young man in his late twenties said Hey Mr. fireman. As he approached he was a black over six foot. I am white and 5'6". I didn't know what to expect. He stood in front of me and I could see emotion on his face. I said what can I do for you. He stammered for words and began to cry. I put my arms around him and said don't worry we will be alright. Sometimes I wish it was Sept. 2001 again.”  

2 comments


  • Carrie C

    I too often wish we could go back. I was 19 at the time and September 11 will always impact my life and every path I take. If only we could tap into the support and pride of country, our military and our first responders once more. Into something much bigger than ourselves. NEVER FORGET.


  • Shervin

    Reading this has me in my feels. That last sentence… Thank you for all that you have done. I’ll never forget the immense support the entire nation had for our many service men/women during that time.


Leave a comment