Updated 09/10/2011 01:22 PM
Fort Drum Remembers 9/11: Firefighter recalls 9/11
While 9/11 still has an enormous impact on the soldiers of Fort Drum, the post has plenty of other people who still feel the pain. In part 5 of his series on 9/11 and Fort Drum, our Brian Dwyer has the story of a local firefighter's trip to Lower Manhattan after the attacks and how he uses that experience to honor the memories of the firefighters who died that day.
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FORT DRUM, N.Y. -- "Flames are flying out of the building," one person said while describing the Twin Towers immediately after the 9/11 attacks. "Five, ten stories high now. Black smoke."
"We were at training that morning at our training facility and we received a phone call from the dispatcher that the first plane had just struck the tower," Fort Drum Fire Department Supervisory Fire Captain Robert Tennies said of September 11th, 2001.
"The whole entire corner is gone," another described the attacks.
"As it fell, your heart just sank," Tennies said. "It took your breath away. You just could not believe what you were watching."
"At 9 a.m. this morning a plane crashed into one of the towers of the World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan," A CNN news anchor read the morning of the attack.
"I was working part time for Guilfoyle Ambulance Service in Watertown and they were requested to bring two ambulances and certain crews down with them," Tennies recalled. "They called me right up with my background and training and asked if I wanted to go and I was like, 'absolutely.' We had no idea what we were about to walk into."
"Both World Trade Center buildings in New York City right now are piles of rubble," the anchor said.
"I can't even describe it to you," Tennies said upon entering New York City. "Everything was dirty and covered in dust. Cement just, it looked like a war zone. At first it just took your breath away. You couldn't fathom that these 210 story buildings were now in piles. When I looked at buildings there were no desks. There were no telephones. There were no papers. They were gone. They were disintegrated, obliterated. Certain buildings looked like sticks of butter, and they were cut open like a hot knife through butter."
"We were tasked to tend to the people that were working on the pile, working around Ground Zero and then while we had time, we would actually help out with the pile," Tennies said.
"When I came home, I had a 7-year-old daughter at the time," Tennies recalled. "We went to the movies. She got up and ran out because she was afraid to be in there with her dad who was a fireman because the buildings came down and killed all the firemen."
"Three hundred forty-three firefighters lost their lives, and as a firefighter, it doesn't matter if you're here at Fort Drum, City of Watertown, a volunteer, a brother is a brother. Just to go and help, I didn't know how to explain it," he said.
Experiences and images most will never forget. And that's something Fort Drum and its soldiers take pride in, making sure the people and times are never forgotten.
Sunday, we'll take a closer look at how Fort Drum remembers those who've died in the years following 9/11, and how in a small way, it gives the families of those who passed on, a piece of mind.