Never in my life had I seen a woman quite as beautiful as her. I woke up on the morning of September 11, 2001 and looked at my wife still sleeping next to me. I took a moment to revel in her beauty, and think about what it would be like to be a father. Irene was eight months pregnant with a little boy. I had no doubts that she would be an outstanding mother, but I doubted myself. I’m a firefighter, I’m never home. What if I wasn’t the best dad? So many things rushed my mind, but I pushed them aside and began gathering my things to head to work. It was only 5 o’clock so I was very ireful not to wake my sleeping wife.
She was exhausted and I knew it, so my intentions were to let her rest. I’ve never regretted anything more than not waking her on that morning. I walked out my front door without so much as an “l Love You. ” or a “Goodbye sweetie, have a good day! ” I was gone to work, gone to Squad 252 of the FADDY. Work was slow. That’s what I remember the most. I was the first to arrive for my shift (as always) and we hand received any calls. I tried to catch up on some reading of the national headlines. My Job didn’t allow for much free time, so when I had some, I took advantage. Days like this were few and far between.
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Being a firefighter has taught me to appreciate all the down time I received. Today I should have been home decorating a nursery with my wife, but the night before I received a phone call asking if I could work overtime today. We have a little boy on the way, and were in need of all the extra overtime hours I can accumulate. Men started arriving for the new shift soon after. The ones who had been asleep at the station packed up and went home to enjoy a day off. By seven that morning I had a hand in preparing breakfast for the boys and had set down to eat with some of the people I loved the cost.
I sat at that table with twenty men who had proved time and time again that they would go through anything to have my back. These men were so very important to me. The only people I valued more were my wife, and my soon to be son, Patrick Mate Lyons Jar. I was so proud he would have my name. My world got flipped upside down at 8:55 that morning. We had barely finished up with the dishes from our breakfast when the calls came pouring in at rapid speed. All New York fire squads had been called to the World Trade Center. The operator reports there had been a plane crash into the North Tower. It was such a lovely morning.
Not the first cloud in the sky, so I couldn’t fathom how this pilot had made such a drastic error. Did he fall asleep? Was something wrong with him? Had he passed out during flight? None of these seemed to fit. I Just couldn’t wrap my mind around how an experienced American Airlines Pilot could screw up so bad. This wasn’t the usual call. This was not an apartment fire in Brooklyn, or a car wreck in the Bronx. Most of my men were scared. I knew it even though they fought hard not to show it. But without asking questions we did what we had done hundreds of times before, we suited up, and left o meet the call.
Before we could even reach our destination, the truck radio went off with reports of a second plane crash. My heart sank as my worst fear was confirmed. This was no mistake. No coincidence. This was an act of terror, and now more than ever I enemies would hit us where it hurt the most. America is very powerful, so a blow to our financial capital was sure to be devastating. Who ever was responsible knew how to hurt us, and they succeeded. Now it was my duty as a Lieutenant and as a citizen of The United States of America to defend this country. So that’s what I did.
Our squad arrived around 5 and reported to the authorities already stationed around the burning towers. Me and my men were suited up and ready to take action. The game plan was drawn out, and we went to work. Before I entered the North Tower I had to find my best friend Let. Peter Martin. He had been my best friend since the eighth grade, my best man in my wedding, and now the best firefighter the state of New York had to offer. He watched my back and I watched his. We never went rushing into a fire without one another. I scanned the crowd until I found him, he was at the truck gathering oxygen tanks to take inside.
As I approached, he was silent. This wasn’t a regular day. We wouldn’t discuss details of this fire while we barbecued at my house. Words weren’t exchanged, but I knew what he was thinking. So without words we headed into a side entrance of the World Trade Center. We climbed a maintenance stairwell on the opposite side of the planes collision so we could avoid the crowds of people sprinting in stamped fashion out of the building. It was an upward spiral in search of survivors who were injured. We were such a good team, Peter and l. We flew up those stairs two at at time. Nothing would stand in our way.
Our minds and bodies were in sync and ready to accomplish whatever we could find inside that fiery steel giant. Smoke filled the air as far down as the 20th floor, but still, we raced higher. The calls we were on came from the 82nd floor. We had been briefed that this floor was home to Bank of America, Network Plus. You wouldn’t have been able to determine that after we broke through those doors. Smoke was thick and made it hard to see anything. We were currently eleven floors under the impact zone of the plane. The floors above us were burning at rapid pace, and would soon cave in.
We knew we had to work fast. Immediately we went toward the outer edge of the floor, where the walls were made of glass. We saw people there trying to get fresh air from the broken windows. Most of the people here were in decent health. Some minor cuts and burns adorned the faces looking up at me, but for the most part, these people could get up and move to safe ground. Everyone looked fine except one young woman of Asian decent. A man in his late fifties informed me that she was burned by a back draft when someone opened a stair well door on the floor where The Bank of Kink used to be.
A young man who irked for her carried her down stars as far as he could and may have done Just enough to save her life. That young man’s courage renewed my hope. Peter grouped everyone together and took the lead while I brought up the back carrying the woman with the severe burns. He lead thirty or so people down the maintenance stairwell toward the bottom floor of the tower. With every step I took I thought more and more of the life the woman in my arms might live. I put myself in that place of her family who may or may not have received news of what had happened that day. What if this was my wife?
I tried to focus on the people who loved ND missed her. That gave me strength to push on. My body felt weak, but my mind stayed strong and focused. I knew I was not going to let the woman die. I took my The smoke was much worse now than when I first entered the building. We had only cleared 6 flights of stairs before we stopped because one of the older men in the group had passed out due to smoke inhalation. Peter came back up the stairs to where I was standing. I handed the young woman off to him and told him to get her and the others to safety. The man who had passed out was too heavy to carry, and would only slow down the group.
Peter refused to leave me, but I gave an order. He told me he loved me, hugged me, and took the woman and the other people and continued on. The elderly man who was passed out before me wouldn’t make it much longer without air, so I radioed for assistance and a stretcher, then took the man down one more floor to an office where I could get him to a window. I broke the glass and a vacuum formed instantly, pulling the smoke out into the open air. Clean air couldn’t get in here. My attempt failed so again, I removed my mask and let the man try to get some oxygen. Its not an easy thing to contemplate, death.
Especially when its your own death. I sat there by that window waiting for help that I knew would never come and I began to think about my gorgeous wife, and how never again would I wake up next to her and take a second to remind myself how lucky I got. I would never get to kiss her again, or take her out to her favorite restaurant to show her off. I thought about the child growing inside her that I would never get to hold. She was due to give birth to my first son in less than a month, and I wouldn’t be in the delivery room. The reality of what was inadvertently going to happen hit me like a Mac Truck.
I would die here today. I wasn’t ready. I had too much to live for, but I tried not to be selfish in my thought, as hard as that was. I tried to think about the people who had benefited from my death. Those 30 people with Peter were what I set my focus on. Still, my wife crept back into my wandering mind. I needed to hear that sweet angelic voice Just one last time. I crawled too nearby desk and made a phone call. After several rings my home answering machine picked up and I realized I wouldn’t get to hear her say I love you one last time, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t tell her.
I left that one last message and in it I assured her that I would always be watching over her and our son. I told her to tell him stories about how he is Just like his Daddy and how he got his name. I wanted her to tell him I loved him even though we had never met. Then I returned to the window to accept my fate with a man who I had never met before in my life. We would both die today. I always thought I would pass away at an old age somewhere in a cozy house in the country somewhere. I imagined I would pass away quietly in a bed surrounded my my children and grandchildren and my wife.
Now I realized nothing would be peaceful about the way I died. I began to cry as I reflected on memories in my life so vivid now it was almost like reliving them. I cried harder still. The heat was intense. The smoke was unbearable. I had stopped coughing minutes ago, and now was lying there motionless breathing shallow breaths of dirty polluted air. I drew in my last short breath and then at 10:28 am on the morning of September 1 1, 2001 the tower collapsed, and darkeners consumed me. I thank God it happened quickly. I didn’t want to experience any more suffering than I already had.
Just like that, I was gone. Now it seemed I was viewing the happenings from a totally different perspective. I and I knew for me it was over now. Now, ten years later, I look after my wife and son every day. She honors my wishes and tells him stories of me frequently. He takes pleasure in knowing we share the same eyes, laugh, and interests. My wife, despite all the pain of loosing me, has exceeded my expectations of her in raising our son. He is a phenomenal young man, and I’m so proud to be his father. I am so proud of my family. I am so proud of my squad. I am so proud of my country.