NORTH SALEM, N.Y. – Capt. Carlos Vazquez, Commander of New York City Ladder Co. 46 and a 20-year resident of North Salem, tearfully recalled moments and incidents of the 9/11 tragedy as he spoke at Tuesday evening’s Remembrance Ceremony.
“I was at home when I heard,” he said. “I was stationed at the firehouse on Great Jones Street [in Manhattan], so I headed out. But I was lucky. I couldn’t get across the bridge to the city.
“When I finally got there, our firetruck had already gone, so we borrowed a truck from the lumber company across the street, loaded it up and headed south.
“The sky was beautiful, but we could see this umbrella of dust down Broadway. Finally, the dust was so thick, we couldn’t drive, so we went on foot. The environment was changing as we went. There was paper floating in the air and something on the ground that was like light snow.
“There were shoes all over the place, and pictures, and money. And then we began to see body parts. And police cars on fire. We saw our own fire truck on fire, and we got a radio communication from one of the guys who was trapped inside. The situation seemed hopeless.
“Later I had to identify a buddy who was last seen on the 22nd floor. I could only recognize him because he always wore a Leatherman on his belt.
“The psychologists said we’d eventually heal, but there’s not a day goes by that I don’t think about what happened.”
Recalling North Salem neighbor and firefighter Vincent Halloran, lost in the second tower, Vazquez said, “Today I ran into Jim Curran. He said, ‘I’m sorry I had to tell you about Vinny that day. We were running away -- I looked back, and he was gone.”
Halloran’s body, like those of most firefighters killed that day, was never recovered.
“The events of Pearl Harbor have been forgotten, because those issues have been solved,” said North Salem American Legion Commander Herb Geller. “But we can’t forget the World Trade Center because we are still at war with terrorism.”