This morning while I was eating my breakfast I was watching some footage of the events on 9/11/2001; I just started crying. While I was taking my shower getting ready for work I just broke out in heaving sobs. I am holding back the tears even as I write this. It is so very very emotional for me that I still have a hard time coping with the anniversary each year. I rarely talk about it, and I normally call in sick on each anniversary; not this year.
On September 11, 2001 –
I had worked the previous day’s shift at Station #18, I had worked a shift for another of our Captains. We had run a couple calls that night and I was fairly tired, my plan was going to shower and get some sleep for a couple hours then just kick around the house a while.
I had just gotten home, thrown my station uniform into the dirty clothes hamper, turned on the news, and headed into the shower. I came out of the shower and saw a building burning on the news, I sat down on the sofa to get the details. I knew that due to the height, complexity and staffing of the building it was going to be a bad day for many people, a lot of people would not make it out alive. But I had no idea what was to come.
As I watched and listened I saw the second plane hit the other tower. Immediately I knew what was going on. Not because I am some braniac but the spirit bore witness that it was a terrorist attack. I immediately put on a fresh station uniform, then thought I better throw an extra uniform set into my bag. I headed out the door as I would head to a fire call from the station…rushing, apprehensive, worried, determined.
When I got to the station about 5 minutes later the entire on-duty crew was there watching TV of the events. The look on their faces was horrifying, mine probably looked the same. We did our customary “bro hug” and watched and listened as our nation was attacked. Over the next 20 minutes the crew that I had worked with the night before showed up for duty. Within another 20 – 30 minutes my normal crew showed up. Within an hour we had almost 3 full shifts of firefighters in the station.
Within another couple of minutes we had a call come in from HQ that we were to go into lockdown, a deputy was on the way to guard us and our area was the next target due to McDill AFB and CentCom HQ.
We immediately sent a couple FFs to the store for food, secured the property, and organized response crews, checked in our reserve engines, and set-up a sleeping schedule to ensure 100% manning of all equipment for the next week. We were doing what we were trained to do while tears were being shed, tempers were boiling, and feeling a complete lack of ability to do anything more productive.
Then the first tower collapsed. We were absolutely stunned and horrified; we knew what that meant. To us that meant that innumerable brother and sister firefighters were just killed trying to save the victims of the burning buildings. We had already seen the footage of people jumping and falling to escape the flames but this brought it close to home, too close. Somehow we just knew what was next…we started organizing our rescue equipment and other gear to head to NY. We knew it wouldn’t take us too long if we drove straight through. We knew we would be needed. We packed our gear.
Then we saw the next tower fall; more dead firefighters. I cannot tell you the emotions that were running through us knowing that hundreds of us must be dead. And worse, trapped, still alive hoping and waiting for us to come save them, to pull them out of their trap, to do our job as their brothers and sisters. But weren’t there for them, they died, trapped, alone.
We were organizing the vehicles with a couple other stations when we got the word from HQ that we were not allowed to go. Someone evidently told them we would go with or without their permission. We got word that any missing vehicle would be reported stolen and any firefighter that went would be gone from the department.
More than a few lockers and walls were punched out of frustration, anger, and utter despair.
Calls started coming in for us to respond as if it were a normal day at the fire station. Our station would normally run 4 – 12 calls per day, today was not any different to our residents and businesses, we still had a job to do. But it was different, different to us. We didn’t understand why people couldn’t understand that.
Three days passed with us holed up in our station. The deputy left the next day, it was his day-off and they wouldn’t pay overtime, not enough of a threat. I understood that…kinda.
When the estimates started coming in about how many firefighters died in the collapses we were simply in disbelief, denial, shock. How could nearly 400 of us die in one incident!! How could that many die burning to death, being crushed, being trapped, running out of air and suffocating. All of them dying alone.
9/11/2001 was the day a big part of my heart was ripped out. I nearly lost my soul during that time. I still can’t really deal with it very well, even now. I’ve never really talked about it before, not even with other firefighters to any degree. Most of us never talk about it other than acknowledging it, then changing the subject.
One day, one day – I will have the opportunity to know who did it, why and face those responsible. I have no idea what I will say or do, I hope I handle it with the love of Christ.
One day, one day – I will meet those firefighters that died on 9/11. I will beg them to forgive me for allowing them to die alone while we stood by helplessly. I will hug them and thank them for the sacrifice they made, their unselfish commitment to duty to their citizens…for their honor, courage, and bravery.
Maybe one day I will get back that piece of my heart and my soul might heal. I might be able to understand to all one day. Till then…..I will shed tears, feel guilty, have bouts of rage, beg God to help me deal with this, and try to get past it.
Thank you for listening to me. I have spent nearly 30 years fighting fires, in 4 years till I retire and I needed to tell someone about this. I am tired.
Today: 9/11/2019 – I am still crying when I go over that day. I am not over it. I’ve been retired for nearly two years and the wound is still raw, the hurt is still real. I fear it will never go away. When I wrote the original article six years ago I sobbed uncontrollably at points. Today as I read it, correct spelling/grammar, and add pictures…well, I still cry. Sometimes life isn’t fair, sometimes evil people do wicked things, and sometimes hearts don’t heal. This is one of those times. I hate it!
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