Fuller Road Fire Department

Serving The Town of Colonie, N.Y. since 1926

 

Chief Proper's Saxophone Page 4

 

 
September 15, 2001

 
Saturday morning when we awoke the weather was much better than the day before. Upon arrival at the site, we were once again broken down into squads and groups. Our initial orders were that the team would begin to demobilize through the weekend because the FEMA Urban Search and Rescue Teams were beginning to arrive on site.

When Chief Wutz approached the FDNY command staff with that prospect, we were told that FDNY wanted us to remain on site for the foreseeable future. We had to begin to look at a long-range plan for being able to deploy personnel to the City on an on-going basis. It was determined that the majority of the team would return home on Saturday night leaving a skeleton crew of about 25 people for the weekend. My group was first due for assignments on this morning, so I ensured that all of my people were hydrated and properly equipped. At about 09:00am my group was deployed to the area of the north tower to assist FDNY and NYPD ESU with a large void they had uncovered. Due to the terrain, it took us about 45 minutes to get to the void from the access point on West Street.

Now that the larger heavy machinery was being utilized on site, traveling around the site became much more hazardous. The machine operators are focused on their operations and may not see people walking around the machinery. Once we entered our work area my group had been assigned to, we found that we were working in a void within a valley of debris. As debris was passed from the void, it had to be passed up about 25 feet.

In this area we found a section of a bathroom door from the aircraft that struck the building. The firefighters at the bottom of the void had a visual on the uniform of an airline employee. We passed torches, reciprocating saws, lights and search cams down to the bottom. The size of the debris in this area was as large as I had seen since my arrival on the pile. We were all trying to fit down into the void, but because of the configuration on the debris, there was only room for one or two people at the bottom. So essentially we formed a human chain to pass equipment and tools down and then pass the debris back out. We worked this area for about 2 hours when we were contacted by the command post to return for rehab. We left some of our equipment with a Lieutenant from 157 Truck who was commanding the operation.

Once back at the command post, we were notified of who was staying the weekend and who was being demobilized. Jill and I were on the group to be demobilized; Steve was staying until Tuesday. This was the most emotional part of the incident thus far for me. We had come as a group to help search for people who were our teachers, friends, and heroes and now we were going to have to go home, leaving some of our brothers behind. Jill and I took a walk around the site and saw some of the piles of destroyed apparatus with messages and prayers written in the dust and rosaries hanging on them. We took some pictures and gathered all of our belongings to head back to the room to clean up and check out. While we were showering the funeral service for FDNY Chief of Department Peter Ganci was being televised.

The thing I remember the most of the whole afternoon was an older man on the street corner playing religious and patriotic songs on his saxophone while I watched the Chief’s funeral service.

By 3:00pm we were once again in a caravan, but this time we were headed north, to our homes. We traveled with Captain Mike Kelleher from the Troy Fire Department and Firefighter Mike Denny from the Schenectady Fire Department. As we came up the Thruway we saw flags hung from just about every overpass that we went under. When we got back to our Albany Street headquarters, we were received by Officer Bob Uhl, who escorted us to St. Clare’s Hospital for our medical review. That took a couple of hours for all or us to get blood drawn and chest x-rays taken. There was a buffet at the hospital in the waiting room for our dinner. When we were all done we returned to Albany Street where many of our team members families had shown up to welcome us back. The first people that I saw were Chief Grebert and his sister Jeanne Mesick embracing.

This is my best recollection of the events of our first five days operating at the World Trade Center incident. Our team operated for 24 hours/day for 16 days. We were demobilized on September 26 at 4:00pm. I would like to thank the other 120 team members that responded over that 16 day period for making me proud. We were the first team in and the team that operated the longest on-scene. Everyone has their own individual recollections of this incident, I was just lucky enough to get an opportunity to express mine here.
 

I would also like to thank Supervisor Mary Brizzell and the Chiefs of the Police Department that gave Steve Leonardo, Matthew Peterson, Thomas Vogel, Phil Wingloski, and I the opportunity to help the City of New York during their great time of crisis.

Chief Kevin Terry
Fire Chief-Car 21

 

Link to Chief Proper's Saxophone

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