On September 11th, 2001, one of the world’s most horrific and wide-scale terrorist attacks took place in the center of New York City.
The hijacking of 4 airplanes and suicide attacks in one of the busiest and most densely populated cities in the world killed nearly 3,000 innocent people.
Today marks eighteen years since the devastating attacks, and the reality of the events from that fateful day is still sinking in for many New Yorkers. Today is a day in which we remember those lost in the attacks, but also those who helped to scour the rubble for survivors in the initial aftermath and clean-up operation.
And one story which resurfaces every year is that of Hollywood actor, Steve Buscemi, who returned to his old job as a firefighter to work grueling twelve-hour shifts in the search for survivors in Ground Zero.
Keep reading to hear the full story of Buscemi’s heroic efforts in the aftermath of the attacks and the heartwarming reason as to why there’s little photo evidence of him at the scene.
Nineteen militants associated with the Islamic extremist group, al Qaeda, hijacked 4 airplanes around the country and carried out suicide attacks against targets in the United States.
And it was an event that was completely unexpected. An American Airlines Boeing 767 loaded with 200,000 gallons of jet fuel was hijacked by a brainwashed member of al Qaeda and was driven into the north tower of the World Trade Center at 8.45 am.
The airplane was driven into the tower at such a staggering speed that many passersby and people in the building believed it to be an explosion from the inside.
The impact left a gaping, burning hole in the eightieth floor of the skyscraper – instantly killing hundreds of people on board the aircraft and on several floors of the building.
During the evacuation of the north tower…
Eighteen minutes after the first impact, a second Boeing 767 – United Airlines Flight 175 – appeared out of the sky at a worryingly low altitude and was driven straight into the next-door south tower, crashing into the sixtieth floor.
The collision caused another huge explosion, which told the world that this wasn’t an accident…
Debris was showered across central New York, causing locals to panic and take shelter in nearby and much lower buildings.
But, devastatingly, hundreds of people were still trapped in both towers with no way of getting down past the burning holes in the center of the skyscrapers. This led to many perishing from the fires and people were even seen jumping and falling to their deaths from the towers to escape the unbearable smoke and heat.
American Airlines Flight 77 was also hijacked and began circling over downtown Washington D.C before crashing into the west side of the Pentagon military headquarters at 9.45 am.
Collectively, sixty-four people were killed on board the aircraft and a further 125 military personnel and civilians who were in or around the Pentagon.
By 10.30 am, both the north and south tower of the World Trade Center collapsed into a massive cloud of toxic dust and smoke.
The steel structure of the skyscrapers, which had been built to withstand winds in excess of 200 miles-per-hour, simply could not withstand the tremendous heat of the burning jet fuel any longer than it already had.
There were many fortunate enough to be on the lower floors of the towers when both crashes occurred meaning they were evacuated safely.
However, many underestimate how tall these towers were and many people were still trapped in the buildings or were making their way down the fire escapes when they began to collapse.
As the towers were collapsing and causing complete chaos to New York City, a fourth airplane – United Flight 93 – was hijacked after leaving Newark Liberty International Airport in New York.
However, the crew and passengers on board were made aware of the 3 other attacks and fought back against the 4 hijackers.
According to Business Insider, one of the passengers, Thomas Burnett, Jr., told his wife over the phone: “I know we’re all going to die. There are 3 of us who are going to do something about it. I love you, honey.”
There was an immense struggle in the cockpit, which caused the airplane to flip and plummet to the ground at 500 miles-per-hour.
The wreckage and debris of the airplane were found in a rural field near Shanksville in western Pennsylvania at 10.10 am. All forty-four people on board were killed instantly.
Speaking to The Independent, Lee Purbaugh, who worked at a scrapyard near the field, was the only eye-witness to the crash.
“There was an incredibly loud rumbling sound and there it was, right there, above my head,” he said. “It was only a split second but it looked like it was moving in slow motion. I saw it rock from side to side then, suddenly, it dipped and dived, nose first, with a huge explosion, into the ground.”
President Bush was in Florida at the time of the attacks and spent the day being shuttled around the country due to security concerns.
He stated: “Terrorist attacks can shake the foundations of our biggest buildings, but they cannot touch the foundation of America. These acts shatter steel, but they cannot dent the steel of American resolve.”
“The search is underway for those who were behind these evil acts. I have directed the full resources of our intelligence and law enforcement communities to find those responsible and to bring them to justice…” he went on to say in his speech that evening.
And it is believed that up to 80,000 people – including police officers, firefighters, and emergency workers – rushed to the aid of the victims in the immediate aftermath of the attacks.
The emergency services of the United States worked together instantly in a valiant and honorable manner.
343 firefighters and paramedics, twenty-three New York City police officers, and thirty-seven Port Authority police officers were amongst those who lost their lives on the 11th of September 2001.
As of September 2018, more than 2,000 of the courageous men and women who assisted at the scene of the attacks have passed away as a result of 9/11 related illnesses.
Thousands of brave men and women sacrificed their own health and safety by spending months in the Ground Zero ruins, tirelessly searching through the rubble and human remains for any survivors.
You will probably know Steve Buscemi best from his roles in hit movies such as Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction. But what exactly does he have to do with the 9/11 attacks?
Before his Hollywood days of portraying gangsters and odd-balls, the New York-born actor was actually a firefighter for the Fire Department of the City of New York.
He passed his civil service test when he was just eighteen, and worked as an FDNY firefighter in downtown Manhattan in the 1980s.
He remained in touch with several New York firefighter causes and spoke semi-regularly at union rallies. He also hosted the HBO documentary, A Good Job: Stories of the FDNY.
Buscemi sprung to action and returned to his former firehouse to volunteer in the search for survivors.
And Steve always remained humble about his efforts.
At the time, he said of his work during the rescue: “It was a privilege to be able to do it. It was great to connect with the firehouse I used to work with and with some of the guys I worked alongside. And it was enormously helpful for me because while I was working, I didn’t really think about it as much, feel it as much.”
Note: Steve can be seen in the top left of the above photograph.
Because he didn’t want any publicity over it. After hearing about the attacks, and how many firefighters had gone in to assist and never returned, he simply wanted to use his expertise and experience to help his brothers out.
And they captioned it: “Do you recognize this man? Do you know his name? Lots of people know he’s an actor, and that his name is Steve Buscemi. What very few people realize is that he was once one of New York’s Bravest.”
After outlining his previous career in the fire service, they outlined what he did to help after the devastating attacks: “After 9/11/2001… Brother Buscemi returned to FDNY Engine 55. On September 12, 2001, and for several days following Brother Steve worked 12-hour shifts alongside other firefighters digging and sifting through the rubble from the World Trade Center looking for survivors.”
“Very few photographs and no interviews exist because he declined them. He wasn’t there for the publicity.”
The post continued to discuss the difference he has made for the fire department.
“In 2003 he also gave a speech at a union rally supporting higher wages for firefighters and to stop fire houses from closing. He got arrested along with other firefighters.”
“Also not very well known is that in 2012 Brother Buscemi showed up in Breezy Point, NY and quietly assisted in the clean-up efforts of the damage and mass destruction left by Super Storm Sandy.”
The post is finalized with a final tribute to Steve: “Once a brother, always a brother! Just so we’re clear… this guy is a Badass!!! Tip of the helmet Brother Steve!”
What a guy.
For more heroic stories from 9/11 scroll on…