In the days that followed 9/11 the UK pretty much retuned to normal, security remained tight and we in the Fire Service were issued with hastily re-written terrorist procedures. I decided on my 4 days off following the attacks that I wanted to go to NYC to help out.
On my return to work on September 17th I announced this trip to my colleagues, almost everyone wanted to come but it was finally decided that 4 of us would go; My sub officer and 2 of my senior firefighters. Flights were booked and old contacts with New York were looked up.
Poplar Fire Station has a number of old links with FDNY dating back to the days of the inter department boxing tournaments in both London and New York, arranged by the legendary former Eastern commander 'Joe' Kennedy.
We eventually made contact with an FDNY Firefighter who had just retired from Hazmat 1 in Queens. We left London on 21st of September and arrived in New York that afternoon. We Met at JFK airport where we were quickly taken to Hazmat1 & Squad 288's firehouse in Maspeth, Queens.
Nothing could have prepared us for the reality of what had happened to the FDNY. Situated next to the Long Island Expressway on a Hill overlooking Manhattan this Firehouse where 19 of its members had perished in the attacks stood defiantly and proudly facing the still smoking ruins of the WTC off into the distance.
The evening we arrived was when a memorial was held by the firehouse and the local community for its fallen firefighters. As I looked among the distraught faces of the firefighters I felt an immeasurable sense of loss, among the smiling faces on Photographs of those who were lost I could see many of my own firefighters; the Senior Man, The Joker, The Career guy