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9/11 First Responder - A Firefighter's Story

Last Played: September 03, 2021
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A Mount Vernon firefighter relays his search and rescue experience following 9/11. During his two weeks helping with the search and rescue efforts, he recalls the feeling of unity from everyone around him.
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mm hey how's it going? You got Greg and joe hey joe, how is everything? We're doing? Good thanks for taking the time to talk to us tonight. No problem at all. Cool. So we like to get right into it. So first question obviously you were a Respond around 9 11. So we're curious uh where you were stationed and when you arrived on the scene and when you did arrive on the scene uh you know what, what was it like at that time? And what what were your responsibilities when you got there? Um I was a Melbourne fireman which borders the Bronx And after the first tower came down um we had a mandatory physical fitness um um mandatory pt every morning. So we used to have to go down memorial field and walk around the track And we just got back in about, I don't know, it's about 20 after 9:00 AM. And this call came in at about 950 and it was on the pay phone and I answered the pay phone and there was a woman on the other end that she was asking for her husband who worked the night before. His name was often Dixon and I said man, he's not here. He worked last night. She says can you do me a favor? And I said, yeah, she says can you tell him that I'm in the World Trade Center on the 88th floor and the plane just flew through the building and I'm on my way out and I said excuse me. And she repeated it again and I said what kind of joke is this? And she says this is not a joke at all. So one of my co workers turn the tv on and there it was on tv um After the 2nd tower went down is when New york city reached out to mutual aid. Since now vernon borders the Bronx. My orders were to help New york city with search and rescue. So when you arrived on the scene, the two main towers were down already and Tower seven was still standing. That's correct. What was that like when you first arrived? I mean what, like what are you pulling up to? Because even taking that phone call, I mean to even hear the words, a plane has crashed into, you know, one of the tallest building in New york city like you, I would have a hard time imagining that in my mind. Um What did you expect to see and what did you see when you did arrive? Um Well, I can tell you, I've never been in the armed forces and I've never been to war, but I know what it looks like. Um And as the day went on and there are nights set in, it was actually quite creepy because I've never seen New york city brought down to its knees, I mean with him out of dust, I mean there was just piles of cars that were on fire, there was just trash around, there was debris, there was every possible thing you could think of that you're walking through. Um Honestly it was almost like a batman movie, like it was Gotham City. So it was pretty horrifying to be honest with you. So they have you doing search and rescue. So how did you exactly, what about go about that where you guys just using your hands or you have some tools or you're climbing on top of debris and moving things out of the way. Like how how are you executing the search search and rescue? A lot of it was done with shovels with hands um with buckets. There was there was bucket lines and whether you scooped up rubble with buckets, a shovel however you got it in and that rubble got passed to the guy and end of the line got dumped basically. You were digging the debris around all the steel i beams that were just laid on top of each other. You were lucky to find a a number keypad on the phone, Maybe Maybe 1, 1 Number. Um It was, it was, it was a scene that gets burned into your brain um mentally, but every year when it comes back it's like we're living it over and over and over again. And with the search and rescue, you're obviously looking for, you know people um did you find any and and did you find any survivors? Um Oh no survivors but did find body parts and those parts were taken off to, if I remember correctly, they went to the American Express building which was set up in the temporary morgue at the time where you know, they were they were they were being held for further DNA to identify the bodies. Um but no, no, no full body is intact. No, no living people. Yeah. Um I actually work right down by the World Trade Center where we have our offices and it's crazy to see like some of the remnants. I know like there's a burger king down there that was used um as like a medical station. There's like a deli that I've been into and you see they still have like all the signs like just kind of the hand painted signs that say, you know medics here where it seems like the area around it was just turned into I guess a base of sorts just to, you know, get people help or like you just said to, you know, identify bodies. Um So it just seems like that whole area was just, you know, transformed completely. I was completely transformed. And I think one night I was standing in the middle of West Street and you couldn't even tell where you were standing on this pile of rubble. Um That's how big it was. It actually turned corners that those buildings came down. Um It was almost like a tsunami of steel and concrete that came down and basically turned corners and it was, it's, it's something that sticks with you forever and no matter where I go, if I'm on vacation and somebody finds out I was a fireman in the state of new york. They assume you were in new york city fireman. And I guess outside of the state of new york, if you tell somebody here from new york, I guess automatically they assume with the city, but it was a city of mount burning fireman, I wasn't in New york city fireman. So how long were you actually down there? Uh you know that day and you know, I'm assuming, you know, you went back for multiple days. So how long were you down there? The original day And then how long did you spend down there helping on the original initial trip down I was down there for approximately um almost two weeks. Where are you staying? Like where are you sleeping at the time? Um Any corridor, any hallway, any crack, any crevice you can find. Um it was probably the first and only time in my lifetime that I say immunity come together in this world. Um people just came together. Um you know, there was nothing, uh there was no black, there was no white, there was no immigration, there was no nothing except everybody wanted to lend a hand and help and it's, it's something that sticks in my mind. Um as if it was yesterday
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