Many current members of the LAFD were not on the job yet when the US was attacked by terrorists on 9-11-2001. Those members of the new rookie class were probably teenagers when it occurred. We must not forget the loss of 3,000 people and those 343 members of the FDNY who sacrificed their lives for others.
Early on the morning of September 11, 2001, 19 hijackers took control of four commercial airliners en route to California after takeoffs from Boston; Newark, and Washington, D.C. Large planes with long flights were selected for hijacking because they would be heavily fueled.
The four flights were:
• American Airlines Flight 11: Left Boston’s Logan Airport at 7:59 a.m. en route to Los Angeles with a crew of 11 and 76 passengers, not including five hijackers. The hijackers flew the plane into the North Tower of the World Trade Center at 8:46 a.m.
• United Airlines Flight 175: Left Logan Airport at 8:14 a.m. en route to Los Angeles with a crew of nine and 51 passengers, not including five hijackers. The hijackers flew the plane into the South Tower of the World Trade Center at 9:03 a.m.
• American Airlines Flight 77: Left Washington Dulles International Airport 8:20 a.m. en route to Los Angeles with a crew of six and 53 passengers, not including five hijackers. The hijackers flew the plane into the Pentagon at 9:37 a.m.
• United Airlines Flight 93: Left Newark International Airport at 8:42 a.m. en route to San Francisco, with a crew of seven and 33 passengers, not including four hijackers. As passengers attempted to subdue the hijackers, the aircraft crashed into the ground near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, at 10:03 a.m.
Three buildings in the World Trade Center complex collapsed due to fire-induced structural failure. The South Tower collapsed at 9:59 a.m. after burning for 56 minutes in a fire caused by the impact of United Airlines Flight 175 and the explosion of its fuel. The North Tower collapsed at 10:28 a.m. after burning for 102 minutes. When the North Tower collapsed, debris fell on the nearby 7 World Trade Center building (7 WTC), damaging it and starting fires. These fires burned for hours, compromising the building’s structural integrity, and 7 WTC collapsed at 5:21 p.m. The Pentagon sustained major damage. Media coverage was intense during the attacks and aftermath, beginning moments after the first crash into the World Trade Center.
At 9:40 a.m., the FAA grounded all aircraft within the continental U.S., and aircraft already in flight were told to land immediately. All international civilian aircraft were either turned back or redirected to airports in Canada or Mexico, and all international flights were banned from landing on U.S. soil for three days. The attacks created widespread confusion among news organizations and air traffic controllers. Among the unconfirmed and often contradictory news reports aired throughout the day, one of the most prevalent said a car bomb had been detonated at the U.S. State Department’s headquarters in Washington, D.C.
The New York City Fire Department deployed 200 units (half of the department) to the site. Their efforts were supplemented by numerous off-duty firefighters and emergency medical technicians. The New York City Police Department sent Emergency Service Units and other police personnel, and deployed its aviation unit. Once on the scene, the FDNY, NYPD, and Port Authority police did not coordinate efforts and performed redundant searches for civilians. As conditions deteriorated, the NYPD aviation unit relayed information to police commanders, who issued orders for its personnel to evacuate the towers; most NYPD officers were able to safely evacuate before the buildings collapsed. With separate command posts set up and incompatible radio communications between the agencies, warnings were not passed along to FDNY commanders.
After the first tower collapsed, FDNY commanders issued evacuation warnings; however, due to technical difficulties with malfunctioning radio repeater systems, many firefighters never heard the evacuation orders. 9-1-1 dispatchers also received information from callers that was not passed along to commanders on the scene. Within hours of the attack, a substantial search and rescue operation was launched. After months of around-the-clock operations, the World Trade Center site was cleared by the end of May 2002.
The 9/11 attacks had immediate effects upon the American people. Police and rescue workers from around the country took leaves of absence, traveling to New York City to help recover bodies from the twisted remnants of the Twin Towers. Blood donations across the U.S. surged in the weeks after 9/11.
The deaths of adults who were killed in the attacks or died in rescue operations resulted in over 3,000 children losing a parent. Subsequent studies documented children’s reactions to these actual losses and to feared losses of life, the protective environment in the aftermath of the attacks, and effects on surviving caregivers.
September 11, 2001 reinvigorated America’s gratitude for all firefighters’ efforts. In response to the terrorist attacks that destroyed the World Trade Center, the Los Angeles City Fire Department deployed California Task Force 1 (CA-TF1) with 70 members and a Critical Incident Stress Management Team (CISM). The members of CATF 1 were the very first non- military personnel in the air at the time flying in a military transport. They were the first FEMA deployed National Urban Search & Rescue Task Force deployed to the World Trade Center.
Their mission included search and rescue, body extrication, and assistance in the use of canine search teams. In addition, many LAFD members responded on their own to assist their FDNY brothers. The CISM mission evolved into a completely unprecedented Firefighter Assistance Program, which was delivered at and near ground zero as well as at various FDNY Fire Stations and other sites. Working with many other agencies for the first-time, FEMA honored the combined efforts by making the teams the first FEMA sponsored program in the history of CISM. Several LAFD Officers were also sent as a part of the Incident Support Team for the Task Forces sent to the disaster.
As a tribute to the courage, commitment, and sacrifice of those involved in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the LAFD raised a memorial in 2003. A volunteer team brought in a 3-ton steel column donated by Mr. Jeffery Neu from the base of the World Trade Center. The 20-foot column was originally part of the lobby structure and is the largest remnant of the attacks outside of New York City. It was placed in front of the Frank Hotchkins Memorial Training Center near Dodger Stadium on Stadium Way.
Annual 9-11 Remembrance
The LAFD Historical Society has been holding an annual 9-11 remembrance ceremony at the Hollywood Fire Museum and Memorial since the museum opened in 2001 so that we will never forget that almost 3,000 people died that day from terrorist attacks and that 343 members of the New York Fire Department were killed at the World Trade Center. We start the ceremony at 0700 hours to coincide with the collapse of the first World Trade Center Tower at approximately 1000 hours Eastern Time. September 11th – “Never Forget.” All are welcome to join us.
By Frank Bordern