LAKEWOOD RANCH -- Despite the intense heat and smoke, their 100-pound packs filled with rescue equipment, heavy protective clothing and sounds of the World Trade Center's Twin Towers beginning to crumble above them, New York firefighters stationed in the depths of Manhattan entered the structures and began their climb to rescue thousands of workers trapped during the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Many were part of the 343 firefighters, police officers and other authorities from metropolitan New York, who gave their lives as the ultimate sacrifice.
On Thursday, Sept. 11, before a memorial set up at the central fountain on Main Street in Lakewood Ranch, these brave men and women were remembered 13 years later during a solemn and moving 9/11 tribute. The event was hosted by the FDNY Suncoast Florida Retirees Association and attended by active and retired firefighters from New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Maryland, and locally from the Bradenton, Sarasota and the Orlando area.
After the traditional "Amazing Grace" played on bagpipes by members of the North Port Police Department, and a prayer for the dead (but not forgotten), Garrett Lindgren, a second-generation firefighter stationed across the East River in Queens at the time of 9/11, told the attentive crowd that he and the rest of his crew deployed to the World Trade Center never expected to return.
"It was unthinkable when I looked at the amount of fire and the massive hole in the first building and I knew it was something bigger than what anyone had ever faced before," he said. "We all called our wives and said goodbye because no one thought they would survive that day."
On that fatal day, 25,000 people trapped in the towers were
saved because of the heroic efforts of all public servants involved.
"The guys showed true bravery, walking up those stairs, knowing something could happen and they might not come back, but they kept on going," said Deputy Chief Fire Marshal George Ellington of the East Manatee Fire Rescue District in Lakewood Ranch, who took part in the tribute.
"These guys lost 343 in one day. I just don't know how they deal with it," added retired Boston firefighter Bob Culbert, who said he spent 32 years with the Boston Fire Department and the past few years in the heavy-rescue division. "People say you have to be crazy to be a firefighter but I don't know about that," he said. "It's just helping people. It's a great job."
Kathryn Moschella, Lakewood Ranch reporter can be reached at 941-745-7010. Follow her on Twitter @MoschellaHerald.