Two San Diego firefighters who responded to New York City following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center spent Wednesday at a ceremony aboard USS Midway honoring the 18th anniversary of the attacks.
San Diego Fire-Rescue Department Deputy Fire Chief of Special Operations John Wood said he it’s a day he will never forget.
“We were there with a banner that said 'We will never forget,' and then, 18 years later, I feel like we're still adhering to that,” Wood said.
SDFD Battalion Chief Matt Nilsen, who also responded to New York, said what he will remember is how many people came together to help.
“I was fortunate because I was able to do something. Everybody wanted to do something,” Nilsen said.
Nilsen and Wood were two of the 80 SDFD members who volunteered to go to New York following the attack.
“There were still fires burning underground and there was still smoke coming out from places,” Nilsen said.
Wood remembers the pain he saw in the faces of other firefighters who arrived at Ground Zero before him.
“You did notice, you know, definitely some emotions coming through from grief to anger in firefighters’ faces,” he said.
NBC 7 was there 18 years ago alongside Wood and other San Diego-based first responders documenting their contributions at the site where the World Trade Center once stood.
Wood said they had no choice but to put aside their own emotions and comb through the rubble in search of victims and survivors.
“All these years later, you realize how important that closure is [to loved ones],” Wood said.
That’s why Wood and Nilsen, and firefighters and first responders across the country, pause every year on September 11 to remember the victims of the attack as well as those who gave their life in the aftermath.
Wood and Nislen said many first responders paid a great price to do what they could when the country was in a time of great need, and they both say the one thing they really remember about that day is how the county came together.
“Never forget the sacrifices that the people made who responded there and never forget what we became as a country,” Nilsen said.