As a tribute to honor the 10 year anniversary of this tragic event on September 11, 2001, I asked members of our Department to share their thoughts and memories. The Prince George's County Fire/EMS Department played a role that day in support of our neighboring jurisdictions while continuing to protect our own county. PGFD Fire/EMS units eventually were involved in operations at the Pentagon and in Arlington.
In their own written words eights people took the time to convey what I had asked. This group includes the person responsible for Fire/EMS Department actions that day, career and volunteer firefighters and administrative personnel.
Ronald D. Blackwell
September 11, 2001: Acting Fire Chief, Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Department
September 11, 2011: Fire Chief, Wichita (Kansas) Fire Department
September 11, 2001 was to be a red-letter day for my family and me. I was scheduled for a County Council Confirmation Hearing. The Honorable Wayne K. Curry, County Executive had decided to appoint me the ninth Fire Chief of the Prince George’s County Fire and Emergency Medical Service Department. Little did I know that morning that I would not be confirmed or what the day held. It was a Tuesday, and an absolutely delightful Maryland weather day. Temperatures were predicted to be upper seventies. I was anxious and excited. My mother and other family had come to Maryland for Ronnie’s Big Day.
We left our home in Bowie and it was a very quiet ride to the County Administration Building (CAB) in Upper Marlboro. After we arrived at the CAB one our officers, a Battalion Chief (sadly, I don’t remember his name) asked if I had heard about what had happened in New York City. I remember responding yes. I also remember thinking what a tragedy and that the Fire Department of New York would have a very memorable day. Entering the building my mind began to shift toward my speech to the County Council. My wife, children and mother as well as several people that are very important to me would be there and I didn’t want to have a case of fumble mouth and embarrass anybody.
Outside the Council Chambers I sat and watched as my wife made last second adjustments to our children’s clothes and appearance as received several handshakes and well wishes. Someone mentioned a second aircraft had struck the World Center. I heard the comment but thought little about it as we waited. My excitement was building as I noticed Carla Blue, Fire Captain and Assistant to the Director of Public Safety walking briskly toward me. As she approached she said, “The County Executive wants to see you right now”. I thought, right now? Certainly not, right now. I asked where? She responded in his office. I turned to my wife and mother told them I needed to go upstairs. but that I would be right back.
I rode the elevator up wondering what the County Executive could possible need that would require my immediate attention. Arriving at the fifth floor the elevator doors opened where a normally subdued security team member frantically waved me toward the County Executive’s Office. The floor was quiet and not the usually very active floor and I had come to expect. I arrived at the County Executive’s Office and found him standing and staring and at a television monitor. On the screen was the smoke of flames from the fire at the Pentagon.