Station Pride Articles

0846

At 0846 Tuesday September 11th, the United States took a hit on the north tower of the World Trade Center. At 0903 a second passenger airliner slammed into the south tower.

The Battalion Chief assigned to Battalion 1 witnessed the impact of the plane from the corner of Church and Lispenard Streets. He immediately signaled a second alarm and proceeded to the World Trade Center. En route, B1 requested additional resources by transmitting a third alarm at 8:48 a.m.

I was driving to school for the first time, the attacks happened the day after my 16th birthday. Anybody that has followed me personally on Station Pride knows I’m 4th generation. I was born into this. I’m bred to help people. Even as early as 1995 when I was 9 years old, I could feel the urge to help the victims of the Oklahoma City Federal Building bombing. I’ve had the desire to serve my entire life it feels like.

My story isn’t much different than many firefighters around the world. Almost all firefighters know when that switch flipped, they remember when they made that decision to pursue what I personally believe is the greatest career there is.

We watched TV the whole day at school on 9/11. I witnessed on national TV as the second plane turned and slammed into the building. It wasn’t until 2005 that my fire service career started, and when it started I was in the generation of firefighters that were labeled the “post 9/11 firefighters”. That label has driven me for years, to prove throughout my career thus far that I am in this for more than the firefighter title. I did not start this career to get the attention we all saw the FDNY receive after they lost so many brothers in one single incident. It has driven and motivated me for 10 years now.

 
In 2013 I found and decided to attempt the Dallas 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb. 110 floors, full gear and SCBA. Climbing with 343 firefighters, 70 police officers. It’s a humbling experience too because no matter how prepared you think are, it’s not enough. The stair climb starts early in the morning. Participants get to the staging area early, get signed in and then get unto their groups. It’s eerie quiet at first, at the base of the 55 floor building we’ll be climbing. As the crowd grows we all begin to either relax or our nerves make us start to get “loose” meeting fellow brother and sisters. A little closer to start time we dress in our gear, just like we do day in and day out but this time it’s different. This time it’s for a cause and it’s emotional. When it’s time we walk out of the staging area. We gather in the street at the base of the building and we listen to speakers, we pray, we say the pledge. We wave and take pictures. Then it starts.


At 0846, with a sound recording of planes flying, an explosion, the pipes and drums begin.

The goosebumps hit, the nerves in your gut get a little worse and your eyes get a little wet. The group piles into a line, we circle in front of the stage the speakers were just on, make a left and then we have an opportunity to lay a hand on a piece of red iron from one of the towers. That water in your eyes get a little thicker, there’s a ball in your throat fighting for space with your heart in the same place, the pipes and drums still playing, right next to you. You can feel the drums in your chest.


As you pass the red iron from the tower you enter the building. That’s the last time most of the people there to support “their firefighter” will see them until the end. That’s when it hits you that you aren’t doing this for you, your climbing because they climbed. FDNY firefighters climbed and climbed, floor after floor helping people out of those towers. Climbing further to reach the floors in which they had no idea if there were survivors or not. Without hesitation and unselfishly they climbed. Knowing full well the dangers, knowing the structural integrity has been greatly reduced. They climbed to help people they have never met before, and may never see again after a few moments in a stairwell. They climbed to their death, doing a job that is in the heart of every firefighter.

“We climb because they climbed.”

About James Cook (27 Articles)
James's great grandfather was a career Firefighter, his grandfather was a firefighter, making his way to fire chief in his home town and taught at Texas A&M fire school for 50 + years. James’s grandfather on his dad’s side was a naval firefighter in the Navy Seabees, James’s father has been a paramedic since 1979, and his mother’s a nurse also. James himself is a career Captain / EMT-I in northwest Texas, and has been in the fire service since Aug/2005. James loves teaching as much as learning the craft.

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