9/11 Stories: Rob Serra


21-year-old Rob Serra hadn’t even officially started his new job as a New York City firefighter on September 11th. He had just graduated from the FDNY Academy on September 10th. He was to report to his first day on the job as a firefighter on the 13th. Ironically, his entire class was scheduled to be at The World Trade Center on September 12th, to be “victims” in an FBI terror drill.

It was Rob’s FDNY brother, Andy, who called him about the attack on The World Trade Center, directing him to get his gear and report to the firehouse. A bus took the firefighters of Engine 5 to the Staten Island Ferry, which would transport them across the harbor to Lower Manhattan. Rob remembers other firefighters on the bus busting his chops. He was such a proby, so new to the game, his head was freshly shaved, he looked like he was just 15. He was so new, he had to cut the tags from his gear. The gear was new, never used. The laughter and jokes filling the bus stopped when an FDNY Chaplain addressed the team. The firefighters didn’t know what they were heading into. Fighter jets were flying overhead. Was this war? The Chaplain began to speak, describing what they faced in Lower Manhattan, and then proceeded to give the entire busload of FDNY’ers their last rites, preceded by a psalm.