By: Luis Espinosa Lt: Hialeah Fire Department
I was 38 years old, had just gotten off a bad 24-hour shift with 5 calls after midnight.
I had taken the kids to school then came home and collapsed sleeping.
My Father in Law blew up my home phone, I do not think we had cell phones yet.
So, I got up upset to answer the phone.
He told me what was going on.
I just watched it all on TV like the rest of us.
Many Hialeah, Miami, Dade County, Coral Gables, Key Biscayne, Miami Beach and Firefighters from all over the United States
just got in their cars and headed to what they would later call “The Pile” and just started helping their FDNY Brothers and Sisters try to find any of their 343 presumed dead firefighters.
I remember that the City of Miami Search and Rescue Team found the first FDNY firefighter.
As soon as they found him, they backed out and called the FDNY Firefighters and they lifted their Brother out.
A lot of tradition and honor with FDNY.
I thought I was not directly, personally affected by 911 but afterwards I found out I had a 2nd Cousin.
My Mom’s Cousin’s Son who was a Firefighter with FDNY.
My family is one of those families with a lot of mysteries.
At the age of 38 I found out I had a 2nd Cousin who did the exact job I did.
We met afterwards and have been close ever since.
He was one of the Golden 50 who saw both Towers fall and survived. He said all he got was scratched corneas from the dust cloud.
His Wife, who was a writer for the NY Post at the time, wrote a beautiful piece about him being one of the few who came home.
He told me the story quite a few years afterwards.
His Engine came over from Brooklyn to the "Towers" staging area which was somewhere around Battery Park and reported to the Batt Chief.
He stood in line behind other Officers. Every Officer before him was sent to either Tower 1 or Tower 2.
When he got to my Cousin he said, “Lt. I have enough men going to both towers and he gave his Engine another assignment.
Everyone in front of him in line died that day.
He had tremendous survivors’ guilt and battled alcoholism for years.
Thank God he is sober for years now.
I also later remembered that I had attended a Domestic Terrorism Class at the National Fire Academy in Emmitsburg, Maryland with an FDNY Firefighter named Andre Fletcher. In this class, ironically enough, on the cover of the Domestic Terrorism Briefing Manual were the Twin Towers.
Andre came over from Staten Island on a Rescue Truck and died in Tower 1.
His Twin Brother also an FDNY Firefighter was racing Downtown from uptown Manhattan but never made it before both Towers fell.
He survived. I have never had the honor of meeting his Twin. But I have rubbed Andre's name on the memorial, quite a few times.
But I am sure all our 343 FDNY Brother Firefighters in the ground would agree that the real heroes that day were the citizens on the last plane that was headed toward the White House.
They stormed the hijackers and made the plane crash in a field, injuring no one on the ground.
I heard somewhere that some of the citizens on that plane were from Alabama University and the Code word before they attacked the hijackers was “Roll Tide.”
There are heroes everywhere not just on the Fire Department.
RIP 343 and all the First Responders that responded that day as well as all the Citizens.