Maryland Firefighters Share 9/11 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.

Chief Blackwell arrived in the council hearing room after meeting with the County Executive in his office on the 5th floor and provided instructions for the Command Staff to report to the Fire Services Building in Landover Hills and open the Emergency Operations Center.  The confirmation hearing was postponed. 

Deputy Fire Chief Bill McGown instructed me to notify the media of a total recall of all firefighters and paramedics.  Media outlets were informed by phone and they did a great job in alerting all off-duty personnel it was time to report to their duty stations.  I recall telling my co-PIO, Chauncey Bowers, as we left the CAB and were going to our cars that we now know what it feels like to be attacked.  This is the closest that either one of else had been so close to a war.

While en route to the EOC, I contacted Diane Cunningham, PIO Administrative Assistant, to direct her to bring our PIO notification books and enough office supplies from Fire/EMS Department Headquarters in Largo to set up shop at the EOC in Landover Hills.  Once at the EOC, Chauncey, Diane and I monitored television broadcasts and made notes to bring up at the Executive Meetings being held every hour.  Our first couple of hours was “rumor control” of buildings being struck in Prince George’s County or reports of buildings on fire, etc.  Many reports were variations on what was really occurring.  For the most part PIO involvement at the EOC was slow as the media focus was at the Pentagon, New York and Shanksville.  We continued to monitor television and radio reports and continued to make notes.  We observed personnel coordinating the influx of firefighters and medics returning to work, career and volunteer, and the large contingent of apparatus that we were able to staff and deploy to fill in at District of Columbia Fire Stations.  Some of those units were subsequently dispatched to the fire at the Pentagon and Paramedics Units were dispatched to a staging area in Arlington, Virginia.

PIO operations wrapped up at about 11:30 pm that evening.  As far as media operations, inquires and requests from our Department remained at a minimum.

I returned home to find everyone still awake and watching TV.  I spent over an hour discussing what had occurred, what I had done that day and what I believed was to come in the days to come.

Teresa Ann Crisman

September 11, 2001: Community Developer – Community Outreach Office

September 11, 2011: Community Developer – Community Outreach Office

That morning was like they said one of the clearest days of September a clear day that you could see forever.   That weekend was great for the MDA softball tournament. As always we always have issues with it being too hot, too cold having to play 24 hours to catch up due to rain but that weekend was great.  The finals had concluded that Sunday night with as always, our goodbyes and see you laters and hugs to the many friends that this tournament has brought together through the years. 

On September 11, 2001 was to be a great day for the department. Chief Blackwell would be confirmed and sworn in as Chief of the Department. A proud moment for him and his family.  A proud moment for this department. But like every day in the fire service our days our not marked by a simple routine.  When the first plane hit the towers, I truly felt it was a fluke accident. It was a bad take off by the pilot, maybe something had gone wrong with the plane.  I would not think that this would lead to the next tower being attacked at that point when the second plane hit the towers I knew that this was not an accident.  That something was terribly wrong and at that moment our world changed.

I will remember as I was going to Upper Marlboro to the confirmation and swearing in of Chief Blackwell I called my brother John Michael. I said what do you think happened will the firemen be ok will my friends be ok and he flat out stated…”Firemen are going to die, people will die and get ready because it could happen here.  I thought about the teams from the FDNY that had played that weekend and playing in the finals and sitting and talking with them and saying goodbye to another year. I thought of the many that would not come home to their families and cried knowing that something bad has taken place.