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How 9/11 Became the Deadliest Day in History for U.S. Firefighters

May 20, 2019 in History

By Patrick J. Kiger

Though they surmised that the twin towers had suffered structural damage, firefighters rushed into the unknown to try and save civilians. As an FDNY division chief later said, “We had to try to rescue them.”

At 8:46 a.m. on September 11, 2001, hijackers crashed American Airlines Flight 11 into the north tower of the World Trade Center in New York City. Six minutes later, the first contingent of New York City firefighters—two ladder and two engine companies—had arrived at the stricken building. They had just begun to climb a stairwell in an effort to reach people trapped on the upper floors, when another hijacked airliner, United Airlines Flight 175, struck the south tower at 9:03 a.m.

The 9/11 attacks not only became the single deadliest terrorist attack in human history, they were also the deadliest incident ever for firefighters, as well as for law enforcement officers in the United States. The New York City Fire Department lost 343 among their ranks, while 23 New York City police officers and 37 Port Authority officers lost their lives, according to the 9/11 Commission that investigated the attacks and emergency response.

Civilians bolt in the opposite direction as firefighters rush towards the Twin Towers of the New York City’s World Trade Center after a plane hit the building on September 11, 2001.

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“We had a very strong sense we would lose firefighters and that we were in deep trouble, FDNY Division Chief for Lower Manhattan Peter Hayden later told the commission. “But we had estimates of 25,000 to 50,000 civilians, and we had to try to rescue them.”

READ MORE: 9/11 Timeline

On the ground, fire department officials quickly realized that there was no hope of controlling the blaze. Instead, they focused on the desperate mission of evacuating the office workers who were inside the two massive buildings. Though they surmised that the twin towers had suffered structural damage and the fire-suppression systems might have been rendered inoperable, they had almost no solid information about the situation inside. So the firefighters rushed into the unknown.

But probably no one realized just how bad it would be. Among the 2,753 people killed at the World Trade Center site on 9/11, 343 were FDNY fatalities. That somber figure far surpasses the 78 lives lost in the next …read more

Source: HISTORY

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