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San Diego Firefighter Recalls Responding To 9/11 Attacks

Firefighters work at Ground Zero, the site of the World Trade Center attacks,...

Photo by Mark Lennihan AP

Above: Firefighters work at Ground Zero, the site of the World Trade Center attacks, on Sept. 11, 2001.

When the Twin Towers were attacked on Sept. 11, 2001, a team of San Diego firefighters was dispatched to help with search and rescue efforts.

Two hijacked airplanes slammed into the towers in a terrorist attack.

Listen to this story by Matt Hoffman.

"As soon as I saw the collapse — every firefighter will tell you they’re thinking one thing: 'a lot of firefighters just died,'" San Diego Fire-Rescue Deputy Fire Chief John Wood said.

Wood was part of a search and rescue team from San Diego that was called on to look for survivors.

RELATED: Ceremonies Held Across San Diego County To Honor 9/11 Victims, First Responders

"We were on a search-and-rescue mission, so our job was basically to go search for a certain sector and see if we can find any signs of life," Wood said.

Wood and his team were there six days after the towers fell.

"There was a lot of missing people," he said. "One of our big things we found out all these years later — thinking about, reflecting on — it is bringing back closure to families was important."

Reported by Matt Hoffman

Wood said he was focused on doing what he could to help.

"There’s no room for emotion on those types of missions — so we turn it off," he said. "Now obviously it’s personalized, imagine having one of your brothers and sisters — may be ones you haven’t met — but they’re in there. So when you’re finding turnouts or parts of a breathing apparatus or two Port Authority officers like we did — that’s our family."

Wood hopes the memory of what happened is never lost.

"One of the big things I always look at is we will never forget," he said. "Seeing the interviews, the stair climbs, the education of our children — seeing all that happen is so very important."

The San Diego Air and Space Museum in Balboa Park has a permanent 9/11 exhibit that features a police cruiser that was damaged while responding to the attack and debris from when the towers fell.


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Photo of Matt Hoffman

Matt Hoffman
Health Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI am a general assignment reporter for KPBS. In addition to covering the latest news and issues that are relevant to the San Diego community, I like to dig deeper to find the voices and perspectives that other media often miss.

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