MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. (WWSB) -Friday morning Manatee County Fire Chiefs Association held a virtual memorial service honoring the nearly 3,000 Americans who were killed on September 11th, 2001, along with the survivors.
Among those who was honored at the event was retired New York City firefighter Garrett Lindgren. Nineteen years later, Lindgren suffers from PTSD, health issues , and survivor’s guilt from that day. The morning of September 11th, he said he had left his fire house in Queens after working a 24-hour shift just five minutes before the first tower was hit.
“If I had stayed for five minutes longer in that firehouse in Queens as I was having coffee with the guys as the shift change was going on, I would have been on their rig responding and I would have been killed. All those guys in Queens I just left were all killed. And if I had left a little earlier, somebody had offered me earlier relief as they came into work, I would have been at my fire house in the Bronx having coffee with them and I would have responded even though I was off duty, because off duty guys were all over the city still responding in their fire houses and were killed," Lindgren said.
Lindgren arrived on scene after both the North and South Tower had collapsed, but he said he had never seen anything like this.
“Trying to walk toward where we thought we were needed, we’re encountering burning ambulances and overturned fire trucks. You know I mean these trucks are massive and they were overturned and on fire. Police cars burning. I never went to war but it was as close I think I’ve ever come to ever going to war, it looked like what’s depicted in a movie," said Lindgren.
He said he felt a sense of helplessness all day, “When you’re trained to help people and you’re trained to go into the most dangerous situations and to the best of your ability make everything okay again and you can’t even figure out where the people are that need you, that is a truly helpless feeling. And that was common all day.”
But he said something good came from the tragedy, a sense of unity with one and other.
“When we would leave that site after searching for twelve hours and we’d leave that site in the wee hours of the morning in our fire engines start heading north to the Bronx again and as we’d go up the West Side Highway, this is like two, three in the morning, there would be three or four deep for blocks and blocks people waving American flags and cheering for us,” said Lindgren.
343 FDNY firefighters died on September 11th. Since then, 227 NYC firefighters have passed away from a 9/11 related illness.