Niagara Gazette, Niagara Falls, N.Y.
Sep. 11—They saw the twin towers fall through the eyes of 10-year-olds, in their third and fourth grade classrooms.
Now, they’re looking back at 9/11 as 30-something Falls firefighters.
Pete DiFrancesco, Luke Marin and Joey Tardibuono said, on the eve of the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on America, that their understanding of what took place on 9/11 has changed over the years. Particularly as they look back at the role of the first responders who raced to Ground Zero.
“Being a firefighter, there is a deep bond. You think about those guys,” said Marin, 30, and a five-year veteran of the Falls Fire Department. “With 30-year-old eyes I can see the impact of losing so many (firefighting) brothers.”
Each of the Falls firefighters can remember exactly where they were when the news of commercial airplanes flying into the north and south towers of the World Trade Center first broke. DiFrancesco was in his fourth grade classroom at the Harry F. Abate Elementary School.
“Our teacher put on the TV and we thought it was cool that we were watching (TV),” DiFrancesco said. “But by the time the second plane hit, we knew something bad was happening. Then kids started getting taken out of class. It was surreal.”
Marin was in his fourth grade science class at Prince of Peace School.
“The teacher said something bad had happened in New York and class just stopped,” he recalled. “I didn’t realize what was happening until I went home and my dad explained it.”
Tardibuono, now 29, and a 5 1/2 year vet of the NFFD, was in the third grade at St, Joe’s School and his mom came to the school to pick him up.
“I was trying to process what terrorism was and what terrorists looked like,” he said. “I was wondering if we were going to be fighting (in the Falls).”
As the day wore on, DiFrancesco remembers continuing to watch events unfold on TV and worrying about his and his family’s safety.
“I was watching TV with my parents and they were worried because of the hydroelectric plants here that Niagara Falls would be attacked,” DiFrancesco said.
At that time, none of the three Falls kids could have imagined that they would one day be putting on turn-out gear and running into danger just like the New York City firefighters who had entered the World Trade Center on 9/11.
“When I was 10, it seemed like firefighters were super heroes,” DiFrancesco, 30, and a 3 1/2 year firefighter, said. “It seemed far-fetched that I’d become one.”
And while the Falls firefighters couldn’t say that the events of 9/11 lead them to their careers, that day has shaped their views of their profession.
It’s an honor to follow those guys who went into those buildings,” DiFrancesco said. “I respect the bravery and the courage they had to do it. It encourages a young firefighter to make a difference.”
Looking back at the sacrifices of the 343 FDNY firefighters who perished in the collapse of the north and south towers has left the Falls firefighters inspired.
“You look at the pictures of them and you see how exhausted they must have been,” Marin said. “And they just pushed through it.”
That inspiration is likely to influence DiFrancesco, Marin and Tardibuono throughout their careers.
“When you’re 10, you don’t take it for what it was,” Tardibuono said. “You look at it differently when you’re a firefighter. It’s an incredible honor (to be a firefighter).”
(c)2021 the Niagara Gazette (Niagara Falls, N.Y.)
Visit the Niagara Gazette (Niagara Falls, N.Y.) at www.niagara-gazette.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.