9/11 Stories: Former FDNY Bill Russell


New York City firefighter Bill Russell was off duty the morning of 9/11, doing electrical work for a friend in Port Washington, Long Island. He remembers his friend calling him into the room to watch was on TV.

Just as Russell was digesting images of the first plane hitting the tower, he watched in horror as a second plane hit the South Tower. Immediately, there was a total recall of all members of the FDNY to report for duty. Russell picked up his lieutenant and drove to their fire house in The Bronx. He was ordered to stay at his firehouse. Volunteer firefighters from Westchester came down to help with non-World Trade Center fire calls. Russell was told to work with them.

The next day, when Russell was sent down to what was then called “the pile," he immediately knew no one survived. He’ll never forget the people coming up to him with pictures of missing loved ones, imploring him to take the picture and look for their loved one. He vividly remembers one mother, begging him to help find her missing son. Russell didn’t have the heart to tell them all what he knew to be the truth. He took the pictures with him. He couldn’t be the one to break their hearts.


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