By Bobby Halton
Fire Engineering Editor in Chief
Today is 12 years, a dozen years of pain for the families and friends of the 3,000 people brutally murdered on September 11, 2001. A dozen years of service from our exceptional American military and our allied nations. Within these dozen years there has been the lost treasure of over 6,700 US military and innumerable life-altering sacrifices for our wounded warriors–many of those warriors serving as firefighters in civilian life.
And today is one year after the brutal terrorist attack on our embassy in Benghazi, where Ambassador Chris Stevens and State Department employee Sean Smith were murdered despite the courageous and selfless efforts by others to protect them, including former Navy Seals Glenn Doherty and Tyron Woods, who gave their lives in the defense of their fellow Americans at our embassy.
Today we commemorate the passing of a dozen years and the passing of a dozen months in which the fire service is forever connected. The American fire service is tied by our commitment to our defense of those intuitively understood natural commitments which exist in our orderly and free society, the exceptional United States of America. The American firefighter will always be true to their oaths and protect our unique American rights, which are enshrined in our Constitution and Bill of Rights.
The remembrance today is twofold, of the emotional heartbreak and pride of selfless service and the awe and inspiration furnished by those who unfalteringly fulfilled their duty. No passage of time will change the nature of these events, nor the character of the men and women who stood in defiance of these threats and defense of our values.
Today is a day of remembrance, a day when we honor those who were true to their oaths, when we pray for their families. Today is a day that we remember them all and garner strength from their memories. Today is a day that we pray that when we’re called on we will show the same kind of courage and loyalty. Today is a day that we remember that evil exists but that there are extraordinary men and women who will face it and defeat it, regardless of the risks.
God bless all of those who watch over others, who defend the weak, who stand against evil and danger, and who unfailingly honor their oaths. Today is the day we remember.
Chief (Ret.) Bobby Halton is editor in chief of Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment and Fire Engineering magazines and education director of the Fire Department Instructors Conference (FDIC).
Below you will find links to Fire Engineering‘s award-winning coverage of the 9/11 attacks.
From the October 2001 Issue:
At that unspeakable moment on September 11, when it seemed all hopes and dreams were vanquished in an impossible collapse of steel and concrete, the fire service had its most devastating yet finest hour.
The staff of Fire Engineering dedicates this special coverage to members of FDNY lost or missing in the World Trade Center disaster, in memory of their supreme courage and self-sacrifice.
“These men are the keystones of the fire department. It gives you a proud feeling to be among them.” Jim Ellson, FDNY
From the September 2002 Issue:
World Trade Center Disaster
Volume I: Initial Response
The terrorist attack on the World Trade Center (WTC) on September 11, 2001, resulting in the loss of 2,819 lives, was the most horrific and diabolical crime ever committed on U.S. soil.
On the morning of Septem- ber 11, I responded to a call for an odor of gas in the street at West Bernard and Church streets, about 12 blocks from the incident.
From my office in Lower Manhattan, I heard the plane fly low overhead. I knew it was low, and I knew it was large. The crash shook the entire area.
The Fire Dispatch Operations Unit of the Fire Department of New York, part of the Bureau of Communications, is responsible for processing alarms and dispatching fire apparatus throughout the city’s five boroughs. The unit consists of five central offices, one in each borough.
We heard and felt the plane hit the Trade Center from our headquarters in Brooklyn. There was a huge column of smoke. Chief of Department Peter Ganci and I drove to the site together to start formulating plans.
I drove to downtown Manhattan from FDNY headquarters and parked my car right alongside 7 World Trade Center (WTC), north of the North Tower. Other units were coming in on West Street. I wanted to come in from a different angle to have another vantage point.
The second plane removed all doubt that this was an accident. I took my response car from home to Lower Manhattan and walked north to the World Trade Center.
For more than two decades, I have had the privilege of covering New York’s Bravest as a photographer for the New York Daily News and as FDNY’s first honorary photographer since 1985.
I responded with my aide by car to the World Trade Center (WTC) site. The North Tower had collapsed minutes before we arrived. When I reached the command post, which was originally on Chambers and West streets, two chiefs were there. One said, “Frank, they’re all dead. You’ve got it.”
I arrived at Broadway and Park Row just as the North Tower had collapsed. Numerous people were fleeing the area south of Chambers Street. I established a command post at Broadway and Vesey streets.
Shortly after the second plane hit, I could see the towers burning from the Whitestone Bridge, more than 10 miles away. I arrived at Division 14 headquarters in the borough of Queens to get my gear. While there, we received a call from the Fire Operations Center asking for a deputy chief.
Soon after the collapse, sector commands were established at the southwest portion of the site and the east. Chief Peter Hayden established a west sector and was located in the area of West Street and Liberty Street; this would be the southwest portion of the site. Chief Thomas Haring was located on Church Street on the east.
My brother, a battalion chief and commander of the 1st Battalion, and I boarded the 9:30 a.m. boat from Staten Island with some FDNY volunteers and a large motorized New York Police Department group. As we sailed toward Manhattan, at about Governors Island, the towers came down.
From Chief of Department Peter Ganci’s office window at Fire Headquarters in Brooklyn, we had a clear view of the North Tower from the east side and could see smoke billowing out from the upper floors after the first plane hit. We all knew we were needed, and a convoy of staff proceeded to the scene, including the on-duty and off-going citywide tour commanders, chief of operations, chief of department, chief of safety, and several members of the commissioner’s staff.
As we worked our way up, we did our best to calm the evacuees, asking them to stay to the right and at the same time letting them know they were out of harm’s way or would be shortly. Because thousands of civilians were on the same stairways as we were, our ascent was very slow—maybe three floors per minute in the early going.
Iresponded to the World Trade Center with Engine 9 and Ladder 6. Engine 9 includes Satellite One, a pumper that carries large-diameter hose, a manifold, a deluge monitor, and foam equipment. It is usually dispatched on second alarms.
As Ladder 6 approached the World Trade Center, we could see large gaping holes in the sides of the North Tower. Heavy smoke was pushing out of every crevice, and we could see fire pushing out of the upper floors. I estimated that there were 20 floors involved.
West Street was not a street anymore: It was a debris field that resembled a metal scrap yard in some areas and a mat of steel beams in others. Every once in a while, you would see an FDNY apparatus protruding from the debris.
As part of the EMS signal 10-40 response (major response to an aircraft crash incident), the EMS patrol supervisor for lower Manhattan responded from the quarters of EMS Battalion 4 on South Street. He intended to establish the preplanned staging area but found that the location was inaccessible: Victims and debris filled the street.
I responded to the World Trade Center (WTC) as a medical specialist with New York Task Force 1 (NYTF-1) and spent two months at the site as deputy chief of EMS operations.
On the morning of September 11, members of the Jersey City (NJ) Fire Department (FDJC) became involved in three major operations directly related to the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center (WTC). Since Jersey City is the closest and largest city to New York’s lower Manhattan, the FDJC initially sent a mutual-aid assignment to the WTC at the official request of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey emergency services.
Personnel working in the Jersey City (NJ) Fire Department (FDJC) headquarters were eyewitnesses to the horrific terrorist attack on the World Trade Center (WTC) twin towers on 9-11. Jersey City is located on the western bank of the Hudson River, immediately across from New York City and is directly connected to lower Manhattan by the Holland Tunnel and to the base of the WTC by the Port Authority Trans Hudson (PATH) subway tunnel.
I offered my assistance at the World Trade Center through a representative of the Bergen County (NJ) Medical Examiner’s Office. Along with another funeral home employee, Keith Morgan, I arrived at the site. We put on coveralls and met one of the New York City medical examiners, who told us that we would be retrieving bodies.
From the October 2002 Issue:
Volume II: The Ruins and the Rebirth
I saw the towers fall on television. I grabbed my FEMA USAR gear bag and took my car to Brooklyn, arriving at my fire station at noon. There, a city transport bus, with tools, spare masks, and air cylinders, took me to a staging area at the Manhattan Bridge, from where I rode into Manhattan.
The scope of rescue operations at the World Trade Center (WTC) was the most comprehensive of any that occurred in this country. The WTC incident was unique in that this was the first time ever that a steel-frame high-rise building had collapsed—anywhere in the world.
During the first few days of operations at the World Trade Center site, we ran the tool operation out of the Federal Emergency Management Agency cache set up on Chambers Street. After that, we were able to build a cache of equipment by securing items from vendors.
Lieutenant Colonel John Blitch (ret.), director of the Center for Robotic Assisted Search and Rescue (CRASAR), requested a team of robot experts and suppliers to assist in search efforts at the World Trade Center (WTC) disaster site. New York City’s Office of Emergency Management requested CRASAR’s response directly.
During the first week after September 11, the Fire Department of New York (FDNY) attempted to continue to operate as if the WTC response were a normal multiple-alarm fire, just on a larger scale. The FDNY command post was established under a tent in the middle of West and Vesey streets.
At 0846 hours, seconds after the first plane hit the World Trade Center (WTC) and the transmission for multiple alarms, the incident command system (ICS) began to take shape. Over the next 13 minutes, command would pass from me, Battalion 1; to then-Deputy Chief Peter Hayden, Division 1; to Citywide Tour Commander Joseph Callan; and then to Chief of Department Peter Ganci.
MY MISSON ON SEPTEMBER 12 was to assess the scene, report on the status of Special Operations resources, and activate the Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) Team Task Force tools and equipment cache.
Terrorists’ use of hijacked commercial aircraft as weapons of mass destruction and the simultaneous attacks on the World Trade Center (WTC) complex in New York City (NYC) and the Pentagon complex in Arlington, Virginia, on the morning of September 11, 2001, triggered the most significant response in the history of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Urban Search and Rescue National Response System.
The Fire Department of NEW York not only suffered a staggering loss of personnel on September 11 but also had its apparatus fleet severely impacted. A total of 91 apparatus and vehicles were destroyed, and approximately 130 more were damaged.
The Fire Department of New York (FDNY) response to the World Trade Center placed our members at the epicenter within moments after the first plane hit the North Tower. The total departmentwide recall placed every member at the site.
On September 10, 2001, I was relieved from my day tour at the fire station at South Street and Wall Street in Manhattan, where Engine Company 4 and Tower Ladder 15 occupy one side of the bottom three floors of a 40-story office building. Many of the firefighters and officers who reported in that night and some from the next day tour?14 in all?perished at the World Trade Center.
The Rev. John Delendick, the Rev. Brian Jordan, and the Rev. Everett Wabst were three of the clergymen who devoted their time and offered their faith to survivors of the worst terrorist attack in American history.
On September 11, 2001, the Fire Department of New York (FDNY) endured an event simply unprecedented in its history. Forced to contend with a terrorist attack of profound proportions, the courageous, intrepid, and extraordinary men and women of FDNY put their own lives on the line as they bravely fought to save the lives of so many others.
Our detailed examination of the FDNY’s response to the World Trade Center attack on September 11 indicates that the Fire Department should focus its efforts to improve preparedness in the following key areas: operations, planning, and management, communications and technology, and family member support U.
On July 28, 1945, a B-25 bomber accidentally struck the north face of the 79th floor of the Empire State Building, then the tallest building in the world. The plane ripped an 18-foot-wide 2 20-foot-high hole in the outer wall of the building.
Commercial jet fuel is essentially kerosene that has been hydrotreated to improve its burning properties. Hydrotreatment is a process proprietary to the producer of the fuel utilizing a particular catalyst.
The Twin Towers were extra- ordinary for their time. Built over a period of years in the late 1960s, they were part of the “new wave” of high-rise construction that used an all-steel frame with lightweight steel truss floors and a central core.
I investigated the fireproof- ing in both World Trade Center towers over approximately a 10-year period between the early 1990s and early June 2000, the last time I was in the towers.
Despite its long history as a fire safety measure in buildings, evacuation did not become a prominent topic of discussion until the September 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center (WTC).
The World Trade Center attacks have given new impetus to the use of elevators during fire emergencies. Had elevators been unavailable to South Tower occupants, far more would have remained in the building when the second plane struck.
It has been more than a year since the attacks on the World Trade Center (WTC), yet a proper forensic engineering and fire investigation to discover how the WTC towers failed following the impact of the two Boeing 767 aircraft has only just begun. Yes, you read that correctly.
As the scope of the World Trade Center (WTC) tragedy came into focus in the hours following the attacks, I wondered what happened to the towers. Why did they come down so quickly?
On September 11, 2001, my world came to an end. I had a sinking feeling that morning that my son, Christian Michael Otto Regenhard, who had graduated from the FDNY Fire Academy just six weeks prior to 9-11, somehow would be involved in this incomprehensible aberration.
9/11-related coverage only on the FE Web site: