I'm sitting here in Queens, NY in our office with the windows wide open and the breeze blowing in. I hear the trains and traffic going by and I hear people in the lot next door talking and laughing. This is the first September 11th that I have worked since I was sent home from work on September 11, 2001 and told by my boss that she was paying me for the rest of the day because they might need me at the fire house. The events that day and the months that followed were bizarre, surreal, and I'm not sure I ever really got over it.
Today's weather is exactly the same as it was in 2001....it's even a Tuesday. Every year I take September 11th off from work and spend the day at the fire house. The place we all gravitated to as the events in 2001 were unfolding. We prayed, stared at the TV and monitored the scanners. We talked and stood around in a state of shock. We didn't truly know what was really going on with our brother and sister firefighters and EMT's until we started getting phone calls about people we knew who were working. Some people hadn't heard from them since before the planes hit the towers. Guys were MISSING. It was a little scary.
We prepped the trucks and the ambulance in case we were needed to assist anyone, anywhere. We sat around....no one wanted to leave and go home. Our families didn't really understand what we were feeling. My ambulance responded to a ferry terminal and assembled with several other ambulances to remove and transport some of the more minor aided to our local hospitals as the city ones were becoming overwhelmed with wounded. I don't know what time we got back to the firehouse but I then received word that two guys from a neighboring fire department who were both working that day were missing. So I went with some people over to their firehouse and a few days later was involved in a prayer meeting as we held out hope that they'd still be alive.
But they weren't.
I went to many, many funerals, wakes and vigils that year and the next for brothers who died in the line of duty.
I know many others who survived the response that day but who are now sick with lung issues, cancer, are battling PTSD, or have since passed on.
I think about how we are all tied together because of what we do. Firefighting and EMS is our calling. I personally wouldn't have it any other way. It doesn't matter if you didn't know someone who died that day, we are all brothers and sisters in service. It's not just today that I think about my friends who perished doing one of the things that they lived for. It's every time I get on a rig, every time I head off to work and bandage someone up, every time I see a skyscraper or airplane, every time I push that siren button as I sit in the front seat of that ambulance and head off to a call. I take comfort in the fact that they SAVED people from dying that day. People are alive today because of my brothers and sisters who put civilians lives before their own and for that I am very proud of them.
It's a daily struggle for me to understand why people want to cause trouble for others, to try to injure and kill each other. Especially people they don't know. Every assault victim I see and every news report I hear makes me even more determined to try to make a positive difference. The gods gave me the power to help people and I try to do the best I can while I make my way in this world. I get into the back of that ambulance and I hold the hand of the elderly woman who fell and cut her head and needs stitches. I take a minute to reassure the husband of a patient that his wife of 60 years is going to be alright. I hold a child who has had a febrile seizure and explain to his sobbing mother that what happened is perfectly normal and he will be fine. I try to make a little difference wherever I can.
I have been serving for the last 13 years and D for the last 18. I hope that when we have children they will get the service bug in them too and continue the work that we have started. I serve in the memory of my friends who have died in the line of duty and the friends that I have made since I have been part of this thing that is bigger than I am, it's bigger than all of us.
Rest in Peace guys. Just know that we won't ever forget you.
343 on 9/11/01
To TL, GH, PL- R.I.P
To my sick friends: Keep fighting!