9/11 Stories: Retired FDNY Billy Martin

27-year-old New York City firefighter Billy Martin says divine intervention saved his life, probably twice, on 9/11. Billy’s firehouse, Engine 83, was located in The Bronx.

After the second tower was hit, his team was sent out. Martin says they were handed a sheet telling them where to report but they didn’t look at it, assuming they were ordered to The World Trade Center. On the highway, before getting to midtown, the Captain finally looked at the ticket. They were actually supposed to report to a firehouse in Harlem to join a convoy to The World Trade Center.

Martin says had they never looked at the ticket, they would have gotten there much sooner and probably would have been in one of the towers that collapsed. Martin adds had they looked at the ticket when they first got it, EVERYONE in the staging area in Harlem would have been down there earlier. Billy surmises their mistake saved 50 lives.

As it was, the FDNY lost 343 of New York’s bravest that day. Martin says the most painful memory came after midnight, when they were ready to head back to their firehouse in The Bronx. Another member of the FDNY saw they were leaving and asked for a ride to his firehouse, Engine 54.

As they arrived, Martin saw a group of women outside: wives and girlfriends crying, waiting for their men. As his rig pulled up, the women thought their guys were there. He will never forget their reaction when they realized the worst: 14 men from Engine 54 never came back to their loved ones. Billy says, “Of all the crappy things I saw that day, this hurt most."

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