On this day, 18 years ago, a tragedy struck our nation like no other. While the attacks of 9/11 were absolutely atrocious, the acts of bravery were far greater. Today we choose not to focus on the cowardly killers, but the countless acts of heroism that we will never forget.
Father Mychal Judge
Father Mychal Judge was a chaplain to the New York City Fire Department. He arrived at the North Tower World Trade Center shortly after it was hit and followed the firefighters into the building. Unfortunately, he did not make it out. He became the first certified fatality of 9/11.
Police lieutenant Bill Cosgrove was the one who found Father Mychal, “I went a couple of steps, and I hit something. And I told the fire chief that somebody was on the floor. And he put the light on him — and I remember him saying, ‘Oh my god, it’s Father Mike.” Cosgrove has reported. He credits finding the lifeless body of Father Mychal for saving the lives of himself and the 4 other people who helped carry his body out of the building. Minutes after they walked through the doors the tower fell.
Father Mychal’s bravery and desire to save people in the North Tower is something we should all strive for.
When most people hear the name Steve Buscemi they think of a comedian who is known for his strange roles. He isn’t typically associated with bravery. That’s because few people know about his actions on 9/11 and the days following the attack on the World Trade Center.
Steve Buscemi passed the FDNY civil service exam as soon as he turned 18. He worked as an NYC firefighter throughout the 80s until he started acting.
The day after the attacks on 9/11 Buscemi returned to his old fire station, FDNY Engine 55, and worked 12-hour shifts looking for survivors in the rubble of the Twin Towers. Unlike many celebrities who are always looking for a photo op, Buscemi declined photos and interviews. He just wanted to help.
Rick Rescorla was a hero in Vietnam long before he became a hero on 9/11. His time on the battlefields prepared him for his eventual career as the head of corporate security for Morgan Stanley in the South Tower.
After American Airlines Flight 11 hit the North Tower, Rescorla received a phone call telling him to keep all the Morgan Stanley employees at their desks. The Army vet refused. He knew that the building would end up collapsing and he wasn’t willing to put any employees in more danger.
Rescorla regularly held evacuation drills, he had always been worried about the World Trade Center’s security, feeling it was never safe. His reports to the Port Authority went unheard, but his emergency drills paid off. In under 20 minutes, he was able to get 2,700 visitors and employees out of the building before the second plane hit the South Tower.
While people were evacuating Rescorla did something that he would do during times of stress in Vietnam, he sang. The people evacuating heard this hero singing Men of Harlech and God Bless America.
After the first few groups of people made it out of the building and he called his wife to tell her he loved her, Rescorla went back into the building to make sure everyone was out. Although he was never seen again, his memory lives on.
Army Spc. Beau Doboszenski was a tour guide at the Pentagon when American Airlines flight 77 crashed into the opposite side from where he was working. At first, he didn’t know what happened, but as soon as he found out he sprung into action.
Dobszenski was a trained EMT and had volunteered as a firefighter in previous years. Even though the police tried to stop him from entering the crash site, he was determined to find a way in. The tour guide spent hours treating people and going into the burning building to find survivors.
Although Beau didn’t make it out alive, his heroic actions on that day will never be forgotten.
Humans were not the only ones showing bravery on 9/11, over 300 search and rescue dogs spent days in toxic rubble looking for survivors. Bretagne was one of those dogs.
Bretagne was two years old on that fateful day in 2001. She worked at Ground Zero for 10 days. At first, she and her handler Denise Corliss were asked to help with rescuing people. When it became obvious that there was no one left to rescue, Bretagne helped with recovering victims.
The brave pup ended up being the longest surviving dog from 9/11, living until June 6, 2016. In the years following her work at Ground Zero she took part in rescue missions during Hurricane Katrina and became a reading assistance dog at an elementary school.
Thank you to all of the brave men, women and canines that worked tirelessly on this horrible day (and the days that followed) 18 years ago. We will never forget or cease to be grateful for all you did and all you sacrificed for your fellow Americans.
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