Lt. Francis “Buddy” Werner was among 19 members of the Philadelphia Fire Department’s Rescue 1 who dispatched to New York on the morning of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center.
Werner was working that day at his station at Fourth Street and Girard Avenue, but he and the others were soon at the Philadelphia Fire Academy, getting ready to embark on a 12-vehicle convoy to New York.
The firefighters got snarled in traffic at the Lincoln Tunnel, as threats came in following the deliberate crashing of two airplanes into each of the World Trade Center’s twin towers.
The Philadelphia reinforcements arrived by nightfall, and worked 12-hour shifts for the next eight days.
“It was a pretty eerie thing. It was eerily quiet,” said Werner, who lives in Sun Valley. “There was white powder everywhere. It was so thick on the ground you could shovel it.”
On Sunday afternoon, the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks, Werner and some other members of the Rescue 1 team that made the trip were at International Association of Fire Fighters Local 22, as the union and the Penn Treaty Special Services District unveiled a memorial tribute to all the heroes of 9/11, including locals who served in the rescue and recovery efforts.
Bill Gault, the president of Local 22, reminded the crowd that 343 New York firefighters were killed at the World Trade Center site. Another victim was the Rev. Mychal Judge, chaplain of the New York Fire Department, who died when he was hit in the head by flying debris while administering aid and prayers to victims. Other firefighters were injured or are suffering side effects of working in the recovery zone.
“It’s our calling,” Gault said of the dangers of firefighting.
Mayor Michael Nutter described 9/11 as a “horrific” day, but added that American first responders came through in the days following and citizens have maintained a special spirit since then.
“We’re a stronger city, a stronger state and a stronger nation,” the mayor said.
The crowd observed a moment of silence before the memorial was unveiled, and Chelsea Gault, daughter of the union leader, sung The Star-Spangled Banner.
The memorial is on a wall outside the entrance of Local 22, at Fifth and Willow streets. As it was unveiled, the Philadelphia Police and Fire Pipes and Drums played a medley of I’m a Yankee Doodle Dandy, You’re a Grand Old Flag, God Bless America and military anthems.
On the memorial are the words “Never Forget — Dedicated to all the heroes of September 11, 2001.” It features an American flag and eagle and a firefighter and truck with the number 22 on the side.
There are also images representing the World Trade Center and another terrorist target, the Pentagon, along with the field in Shanksville, Somerset County, where United Airlines Flight 93 crashed following a violent clash between passengers and hijackers.
As part of the ceremony, Local 22 gave the Unit Recognition Award to Rescue 1 for its role in the aftermath of the attacks.
The Rescue 1 team of a decade ago consisted of Deputy Chief Joseph Mack, Capt. Gerard McKeown, Lt. Fred Endikrat, Lt. Francis Werner, Lt. John O’Neill, Lt. Michael Whalen and firefighters Gerard Smink, Louis Brasten, Richard Benditt, Sylvester Evans, William Reynolds, Robert Crossfield, Christopher Fisher, Craig Murphy, David Tretter, Shawn Glynn, Michael Foley, Joseph Lockett and John Ross.
Rescuers worked 12-hour shifts to locate possible survivors with the aid of K-9 dogs and specialized camera equipment. The Fire Department of New York removed the bodies that were found.
Werner recalled unloading the gear upon arrival in New York and heading to Ground Zero.
The Philadelphia firefighters were angry with the terrorists’ actions but had a job to do. They worked with dogs to determine if there were any living victims among the rubble, but sadly, they found only mangled body parts that were passed along to the coroner’s office.
Each day, at the shift change, thousands of people lined a route, applauding and waving American flags in an emotional scene.
“The people were fantastic,” Werner said. “I was choked up. It brought a tear to your eye.”
Similarly, Werner and the others were overwhelmed by the outpouring of support when they arrived back at the Fire Academy.
In the days leading up to the 10th anniversary, Werner watched television footage of the aftermath of the tragedy.
“Wow. It brought back a lot of memories,” he said.
Local 22 also presented the following awards during a post-ceremony reception in the union hall:
• President’s Award: Retired Battalion Chief Fred Endikrat, a 36-year veteran of the department who served as part of the command staff for the Pennsylvania Task Force and FEMA at the World Trade Center.
• Firefighter Friends Awards: Bill Cleary/Givnish Funeral Homes, Jack’s Firehouse Tavern, Matt Arnold/Darlings Diner, City Councilman Frank Rizzo, state Rep. Ron Waters, state Sen. Anthony Williams, former District Attorney Lynne Abraham and attorney Mike Fenerty.
• The Media Award: Media Mobilization Project.
• Certificate of Service Awards: Eddington Fire Co., Cheltenham Hook & Ladder, Cornwells Heights Fire Co., Elkins Park Fire Co., Nottingham Fire Co. #34, Glenside Fire Co., Union Fire Co., Penndel Fire Co. and Feasterville Fire Co.
• Home Association Brass Plates: The families of Rich Endy and Joseph Eisenlohr.
• Community Service Awards: Firefighters Joseph Gardener and Mike Rauch and Capt. Rich Romano.
• Heroism Award: Firefighters Charles Tizol, Edward Verbitski, Ronald Nyari and John Robbins and Lt. Kenneth Pagurek.
• Distinguished Service Awards: Capt. Joseph Healy, Lt. Joseph Wojtiw, firefighters William Phillips, Charles Brennan, Arthur Seeger, Ernest Foley, Justin Kiefski, Robert Solis, Bruce Thomas, Kevin Gahagan and Alvin Jenkins and fire service paramedics Matthew Flannigan and Elin Rodriguez.
• John “Moon” Reilly Award: Local 22 sergeant-at-arms Glenn Johnson.
• Medal of Honor: The family of Hoseman Joseph Dugan, who died Nov. 8, 1943 from injuries he received in the line of duty.
• John Redmond Award: Battalion Chief Robert Lewandowski. ••
Reporter Tom Waring can be reached at 215-354-3034 or email@example.com