My ex-wife woke me up a little after 6 a.m. PST and said I needed to turn on the T.V. I turned it on seconds after the second plane hit. My first reaction: holy shit, we are at war. In fact I said those words to my wife. My second reaction: holy shit, a lot of firefighters are going to die today.
On that date in 2001 I was still on the job as a Fire Captain in California. I had been in this line of work since 1975 when I started riding-along in high school. I had knowledge of the tactics and culture of FDNY. I felt qualified to make this sad assumption. My second reaction, horribly, came to fruition not long after.
FDNY has a proud and noble tradition of fighting fires aggressively and that culture, by nature, resists change. I believe the 911 Commission Report examined and confirmed that very premise. I have no way of knowing if that culture contributed to the extraordinary loss of life that day. I just know that I mourned the loss of those men and women as deeply as the next person. It was a tragic loss of life secondary to a cowardly attack by a sociopathic terrorist organization.
I was incredibly, deeply moved by the sight of my brother firefighters unfurling a U.S. flag at the Pentagon. That day in 2001 solidified the notion in our society that Firefighter’s are heroes. Indeed they were and indeed they are. They were not stupid…many of them must have known or at least felt that, as the thump of bodies rained down on them from above, that this could be their last day on earth and yet they continued the climb up those stairs in the hope of finding someone to save, because at the end of the day…it’s what they do. It’s what they were always programmed to do. That so many lost their lives that day is tragic. That we will never forget is our responsibility…or simple burden to their memory. Rest in peace heroes of that day, in uniform and out. You are not and will not be forgotten.