Commentary by Mike Dugan
It’s hard to believe that we are approaching the 20th anniversary of the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City. Included in those attacks were also the attacks on the Pentagon and the thwarted attack which was stopped by the members of flight 93 in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. In some ways it seems like just yesterday that September 11, 2001 happened, and other times it seems like a lifetime ago. Like most people who were there, sometimes it seems fresh in my mind and little things can bring me right back—other days it is a distant memory.
When I think of September 11, 2001, I always go back to the day before when I was enjoying the company of other New York City firefighters and fire officers as we rededicated the quarters of Engine 73 and Ladder 42 after being out of our firehouse for almost two years. It was a beautiful fall day. At that party were numerous dignitaries from the fire department, from our Chief of Department Peter Ganci to our beloved priest FR. Mycal Judge. Of those people who attended the party, 11 members would not see September 12, 2001! The reason I think about these things is the company pride, the traditions, the duty, and the honor to serve that was so present on September 10. Fr Judge gave one of the most impactful sermons that day…and if you haven’t seen it look it up. On September 11, 2001, Fr Judge was giving last rites to Danny Suhr when he was killed after being struck by a jumper. I always think he was the first one to get to heaven to welcome the firefighters, police officers, military members, and the innocent victims. Pete Ganci, Fire Department of New York (FDNY) Chief of Department, was buried when the first tower collapsed. They dug themselves out and he stayed near his command post even after the first tower collapsed, and when the second tower fell, he did not survive. Another member who was at that celebration on September 10 was Peter Bielfeld. On September 11 Pete was at the medical office across the river in Brooklyn due to an injury for making a rescue a couple of nights before and got in his car and drove to the WTC. He did not have to go there but he chose to because he was a firefighter. Pete left a note for his family in a locker at the firehouse Engine 10 and Ladder 10, near Ground Zero. The note was not found for a few days, and he did not survive. Also at that party was Lt. Ray Murphy who had been promoted out of Ladder 42 and was now a lieutenant in Ladder 16. Ray survived the first collapse, got up and dusted himself off and went to the second tower with his men. When that collapsed Ray did not survive. This is just a small part of the story of 9/11, but the actions of these people show the mettle of the FDNY. The dedication to duty, honor to serve, the traditions that are passed on, and the willingness to do whatever it takes to get the job done. These stories are from one firehouse out of the multitude that responded. There are stories from many of those firehouses and companies on that fateful day.
After 9/11 on many of the rigs throughout the city as sign appeared that stated “FDNY still the greatest job in the world.” That was true and one of the things that the New York City Fire Department is proud of. On September 12, 2001, the New York City Fire Department still responded to the numerous calls for service and we started the rescue and recovery operations at Ground Zero. We were still the FDNY and going to do what we had to. The men and women who served in FDNY, NYPD, PAPD, as well as the members working at the Pentagon continued to do their jobs and worked to restore their commands. That is one of the greatest tributes we can give to the 343 FDNY members, 23 NYPD members, 37 PAPD, and 125 people killed at the Pentagon and the passenger on Flight 93. We also must remember the brothers and sisters who are still dying every week because of the toxic dust at Ground Zero. As of this date, more than 220 FDNY members who responded to the WTC have died as a direct result of that day. The number of first responders is in the thousands.
The FDNY is “Still the Greatest Job in the World” and young men and young women want to work in the FDNY because of the foundations set before my time and by people after me. Duty, Pride, Honor, and Commitment are things we not only say but we do. The hope is that we left the FDNY, and the world, a little better because we were there. God Bless the FDNY and God Bless America.
Michael Dugan, Captain, FDNY (Ret.)