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Sábado, 10.09.11

Al Mullins Remembers 9/11

AP / Samoilova
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Remembering That Day …. September 11, 2001

I barely remember the day that JFK was assassinated. I remember my Mom watching the news on the old black and white television and her crying, but that is about it. Fast forward to September 11, 2001, well yes I remember it like it was yesterday. How can you forget that day, and how we have changed in that time?
Like everyone else on the East Coast, we woke to a pristine fall day, clear blue skies light humidity and a gorgeous day. Our daughter was in kindergarten so getting up and getting her out to the bus was the big activity that morning, that and the fact that I had a couple of errands to run that day with our twin boys. After walking my daughter up to the bus stop and seeing her off, I headed back down the street to get my boys and head out on my errands. Twin boys are very cool, everyday that I spend with them is just amazing and this day started that way.

Our first stop was at the bank, I had to drop something off at my bank (well before online banking) so I grabbed the guys took them out of their car seats and headed into the bank to take care of the transaction. As soon as I did that, I was headed to our favorite barbershop to get everyone a haircut, but as I was walking out of the bank, a woman who was walking in stopped and told me that a plane had hit the World Trade Center. Now she did not have to fill in the rest since I naturally knew where they were and what they were. In fact, I am a native New Yorker and as a young boy, I watched the WTC or twin towers being built. I lived up in the Catskills, but had relatives in New York so we would often come down to visit.

I heard her say that the WTC had been hit by a plane and my love of anything FDNY (Fire Department of New York) reminded me that something like this had happened before in New York. A Mitchell B-25 (Twenty Seconds over Tokyo or the twin-engine bombers in the movie Pearl Harbor for the younger crowd) flying to Floyd Bennett Field had gotten lost in the fog and had crashed into the Empire State Building. I looked up again at the sky and I just thought that some wayward general aviation plane had really messed up; I did not even consider a terrorist attack. I really dismissed what she had said and drove over to the barbershop.

Stopped the car got the boys out of their car seats and walked in to the barbershop where I stopped dead in my tracks. The 55-inch rear projection high definition television in the barbershop was showing pictures from the WTC and I really knew right then that this was not a general aviation plane or a mistake. I also knew that every firefighter in New York was going to this fire. If I was at the firehouse and this came in, I would have done the same thing. Yes I know and you know that this is wrong, but back then… yeah I was going.
This was like no fire I had ever seen in my life, First Interstate Bank and Meridian fires in LA and Philly paled in comparison (and they were both huge fires). I also knew this was going to be the toughest fire these guys would ever have to handle, especially since all the elevators were out and those guys had to walk. I have had to go up 10 and 20 story buildings with full gear and equipment on and know that was tough, but almost 100 floors OMG!

Then as I was watching the second plane hit, I could not believe it now I started to get nervous since one was bad, but two was worse and I thought that two would not be the end of it. Shortly after (at least what seemed to be shortly after) the second plane hit the twin towers I called TROT (Technical Rescue Operations Team) central. Fire Station 18 in Fairfax County is really TROT central and as a former shift member there, I knew the number by heart. The driver on the shift answered the phone and I asked him if they had seen the news and were being geared up, as I was talking to him the third plane hit the Pentagon and FS18 actually were toned out on the response… I said a quick good bye and was a little worried, since I knew all of those characters and was concerned for their well being.

Now I turned back to the TV and saw a humongous cloud of dust in New York, and my blood turned to ice water. I knew what had just happened and I knew that many firefighters had just died. As a former member of the TROT group in Fairfax County I had gone up to Baltimore in the late 1980’s to work with the folks from Montgomery County in a drill at the Francis Scott Key Medical Center. The medical center was dropping one of their 14 story buildings and we were going to work on it after it fell. As a young sergeant on the rescue, I was really forward to getting an opportunity to get some good experience on this structure. Battalion Chief Mike Tammillow and Captain Chuck Jarrell, two of the more senior members of the team were kind enough to give me a video camera and put me in position to catch the falling of the building. I grabbed the camera got as close as the security folks would let me and started filming, it was really a great vantage point and I got to see and hear the entire demolition of the building from a close vantage point. Now remember that dust? I had no clue about the dust in the late 80’s, heck I was still listening to Journey… So I am filming the building coming down and watching the dust come towards the camera and not really appreciating what was going to happen next when I couldn’t breathe anymore…. I know how the people on the ground felt that day and I knew the significance of the dust.

(To be continued tomorrow…)

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