September 11 Firefighters - Firechief Book
On September 11, 2001 at 8:46 a.m. and then again at 9:02 a.m. a hijacked aircraft hit the World Trade Center in New York City. Fifty-six minutes later the first tower collapsed, and one-hundred and two minutes after impact the second tower fell. Each tower took twelve seconds to fall killing a total of 2,819 people. Ninety-eight FDNY vehicles were destroyed. Two hundred eighty nine bodies were found intact, and almost twenty thousand body parts were found. Seventeen hundred seventeen families got no remains at all. The fires continued to burn for ninety-nine days after the attack. Three hundred forty-three firefighters and paramedics, twenty-three NYPD officers and thirty-seven Port Authority police officers were killed.
In my book, Fire Chief, Dan Bradley explains how deeply this impacted those of us who were serving as firefighters at that time. “We thought about our brother firefighters, who ran into the Twin Towers to save the civilians trapped there. We all related in our own way to those brave firefighters running towards danger, instead of away from it.” As the ten-year anniversary of September 11 rolls around past, present and future emergency responders around the world will reflect on the dangers of their chosen vocation.
In the book, I describe the incident where the gasoline tanker, shown below, burned in a huge fireball. While no one was killed, this incident reminds us of the heat and size of the fireball created by two fully-fueled aircraft burning within the steel structure of those two towers.
What’s Left of a Gasoline Tanker after Fire as Described in Chapter 18 of Fire Chief
From the photo, you can see what was left of that gasoline tanker; the exhaust stacks, radiator and front license plate. And we all saw what was left of the World Trade Center.
Message for First Responders
Career and volunteer firefighters, EMS responders and law enforcement officers endure hours of boredom interspersed by moments of sheer terror. Often during those hours of boredom we can risk losing our edge, drifting off into a lowered state of vigilance. As the years go by, we forget about the peak physical and mental demands that can happen, sometimes just once in a career. I think it is our duty to learn from 9/11 and our brothers and sisters’ brave response. We that we can use the image of those brave firefighters, EMS responders and law enforcement officers, as they dashed up those stairways toward their fate, to inspire us to keep alert and to maintain our mental and physical fitness throughout our careers. You never know when and where the extreme incident will demand everything you’ve got, and more. There may come a time in your career when that extra lap around the track, or that extra hour of training, will make the difference between life and death for you, your fellow responder, or a victim.
Message for Civilians
For those of us civilians, this September 11th will give us the opportunity to recognize those who are now serving because when their duty calls, and the rest of us are running the other direction, the first responders are the ones who are running up the office tower stairs, into the burning house and toward the wildland flames. It will be a good time to remember, to recognize, and to reflect.
Also, at a more cognitive level, we owe it to our first responders to think ahead about potential emergency situations and to plan for ourselves, our fellow workers and our families. Then we need to communicate those plans to nearby emergency services agencies and to discuss their response before it is needed. We are all busy, including the responders, and everyone tends to neglect this aspect of emergency response. But those in the World Trade Center ten years ago who were prepared, and had a company emergency plan, seemed to fare better than those who did not. Let’s use this ten year anniversary as an opportunity to make contact with our local fire department, EMS agency, police or sheriff’s department, to thank them for their service, and to discuss possible scenarios that might benefit from a little coordination and communication before the unimaginable actually happens.
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