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A woman looks at a memorial to firefighters who perished during the 9/11 World Trade Center attacks at Ground Zero, in New York, on September 7, 2011.
They’ve been called the heroes of 9/11. But most first responders shrug off that moniker. “We were just doing our jobs,” they say. “We’re hardwired to help.” But for us mere civilians, it’s nearly impossible to imagine how firefighters, cops and other rescue workers selflessly ran into the burning buildings as so many desperately tried to get out.
Over 400 first responders were killed at the World Trade Center on 9/11. And as the weeks turned into months, months into years, the emergency response mission turned to one of recovery. Despite toxic and heart-wrenching conditions, first responders wouldn’t leave the site for fear of leaving their people behind. In the years since, many have gotten sick from their time at ground zero.
New York firefighter Jim Riches was one of the first rescuers on the scene. He pulled the remains of his own son, also a firefighter, “out of the hole.” In 2005, Riches lost 25% of his lung capacity and lay in a coma for 16 days. He had to learn to walk and talk again. Now, he has lots of sharp words about all the things that went wrong down there.
Why were there so many breakdowns in communications? Has enough been done to prevent that from happening again? Have we done enough to honor these brave men and women? Listen to these questions as more as Larry Mantle talks with Riches and two other first responders.
Jim Riches, retired Deputy Chief, Fire Department City of New York (FDNY), who lost his firefighter son Jimmy Riches on 9/11
Kenneth Honig, recently retired Inspector and Commanding Officer for Port Authority of New York and New Jersey at John F. Kennedy International Airport and LaGuardia Airport; former Port Authority Emergency Manager for 8 weeks after 9/11; Senior Program Coordinator for Critical Incident Management and Training Inc. (CIMAT)
Jay Kopstein, former Deputy Chief for the New York Police Department (NYPD) who retired in 2010 after 37 years of police service; for the last 12 years of his police career he was assigned to Operations Division and was involved in the planning and coordination of most large special events and significant incidents in New York City
From left to right, William Bratton, Jay Kopstein, Kenneth Honig and Jim Riches in studio.