On the afternoon of September 10th I was on duty at my fire station in Northern California when I learned that we would be sending an engine to a major wildfire in the Sierra foothills, a hundred miles to the east. I was one of several firefighters eligible to leave on the engine but luckily was not selected as I was due to pick up my uncle from Boston at the San Jose airport the next day. As much as I looked forward to the ensuing overtime it was a good thing that I wasn’t going.
Well, later that day, or 4:00am on September 11th, I was awoken to learn that we would be sending another engine and I’d be on it. So a short while later we were on the road to rendezvous with another 4 engines from neighboring cities. While awaiting for the other engines to show up a major structure fire broke out in one of the towns and two engines were subsequently delayed. While we sat there waiting for two more replacement engines our captain started to kid around and he joked that they were probably going to disband this strike team, this group of five engines, because of the delay. This translated into potential overtime not being earned as we would most likelybe gone 3-4 days straight. Well, I got tired of listening to this so I pulled out a little transistor radio I had and plugged in the earphone. I no sooner had it in when I heard the announcer talking of a plane hitting one of the World Trade Center towers. All I could envision was a Cessna type plane hitting the tower. But, upon hearing the news, I told the rest of the crew in the engine what had happened. I was greeted with doubt though since they figured I was trying to top the captains talk of the strike team being canceled. I got out of the engine and started to walk over to tell the Chief what I had heard and before I could reach his rig the announcer was screaming that a second plane had just slammed into the other tower.
Everything that happened for the next several hours, the burning buildings, the Pentagon, the plane crash in Pennslyvania, the collapses… had to be heard by myself and then verbally relayed to the other guys as we traveled towards the Sierras. We didn’t see any footage until later that night when we were near the fire, staged by an elementary school, and we got a chance to see a TV in the teachers lounge. Having had the chance to visit the WTC several I took the opportunity to visit the fire station across the street. I talked to the guys for a few minutes about the bombing in 1993 and what it was like responding to that call. I can’t even imagine whatever became of that station.