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Savannah Fire captain remembers working in New York during 9/11

Published: Sep. 8, 2021 at 5:22 PM EDT
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - A current Savannah Fire captain was a police officer in a suburb of New York City in September of 2001 and responded to help in the wake of the attack on the World Trade Center.

On September 11th, 2001, now Savannah Fire Captain Glenn Carlson was a sergeant with the Mount Pleasant Police Department,  about 15 miles from the New York City line.

“On that morning, I was in my office at police headquarters when we saw that there was planes that had hit the World Trade Center.”

Captain Carlson said shortly after, his department had a contingent of officers ready to go help, including him, just waiting for word on where they were needed most.

“When we got onto the west side highway, which takes us from Westchester County directly into Manhattan, there was no traffic. It was surreal. We could see the plume of smoke, no cars at all.”

Carlson said at that point, just a few hours after the attack, only first responders were allowed into Manhattan.

He says another striking sight, were the military jets flying just overhead.

“For me, I was at the time a 17-year police veteran. And that’s something that I hadn’t seen. And it was certainly unsettling. But you knew that for them to be up there, doing the job that they were assigned to do, we knew this was going to be serious.”

The initial assignment for Carlson and his fellow officers was protecting a fire house in Lower Manhattan, since authorities were uncertain at the time if there might be any kind of follow-up attack.

Carlson was there as the New York firefighters with Engine Company 5 returned from the World Trade Center in a battered truck that he says looked like it had come out of a war zone.

“It was a very, very sad and emotional return for everybody there, because they were missing a firefighter that had responded to the Trade Center.”

Carlson said the next assignment took them to an area adjacent to ground zero.

“I recall just a lot of debris and destruction. And the air quality was really poor.”

Carlson also recalled the actions of firefighters with the New York City Fire Department that day, that he calls extraordinary.

“Seeing them coming out on the apparatus, it was absolutely heart-breaking. You couldn’t even imagine what they must’ve been through, seeing it first hand.”

It was their heroism and camaraderie though that inspired Carlson to pursue a career as a firefighter after his retirement from the police force.

“To be quite honest with you, it was 9/11. I saw the work that the firefighters did and the camaraderie and the brotherhood, and I said to myself, I want to be part of that.”

As he reflected on the events of that day, and days following, Captain Carlson said he wants people to remember that the suffering continues for many families of those lost, and who responded to help that day and are now dealing with illness caused by exposures at ground zero.

“It’s very sad. It’s very much, in my mind and ongoing event, and an ongoing tragedy. And we have to remember, and not forget, and think about the people that are still being impacted by this.”

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