9/11 memories will hurt forever


If, like many Americans, you believe the pain, loss and shock of September 11, 2001 has subsided or receded, then you simply weren’t close enough.

A group of San Francisco firefighters compelled to help in New York City after 9/11 told KTVU they are still haunted by images of the attacks some 11 years later.

Firefighters from Fire Station One — on Howard near Third Street downtown — jetted to Manhattan in the days after 9/11 to assist with rescue and recovery efforts in the destroyed World Trade Center.

John Sikora was one who made the straightforward decision — for a hero, that is — to take the painful trip:

“We were feeling that we needed to do something to go help these guys. That they needed help. That this was a big major event, it was gonna take it out of them.”

About a dozen other S.F. firefighters — including Sikora — had their pictures taken standing near the World Trade Center rubble just days after the attack.

SFFD Battalion chief Victor Wyrsch remembers one stark artifact of the very real, very human loss that day:

“It was somebody’s list of how they wanted to become a better person, how they wanted to be a better brother and a better father. And that really shook us all up.”

The passage of time since 9/11 has numbed many to the death and destruction levied by the heinous assault on New York City. But not me. I was there.

Having moved to New York City just five months earlier, the senseless carnage stained every minute of every day of my entire 2-1/2 year stay.

Working for the Associated Press, my job was to lead graphics coverage of the attacks from 50 Rockefeller Center. That day, many of us feared our iconic New York building was the next target.

50 Rock was evacuated, but we and the rest of The AP stayed behind to tell the story. Amid the shock, panic and dusty smell of death, journalists from The AP and elsewhere worked hard to tell the painful tale.

The efforts of mere journalists pale in comparison to the first responders who saved so many lives while risking their own, and to the families whose lives and memories will never be complete again.

In the hours following the attacks, I studied every second of tape, every image, and every account to accurately build news graphics that explained precisely what happened in Lower Manhattan that day.

Since then, I haven’t looked at a single photo, video, special, retrospective or commemoration of the event. It’s simply too difficult, and I don’t need any reminders of the pain our nation suffered that day.

Our country and the world, though, just may.

Jesse Garnier
Jesse Garnier is the editor and founder of SFBay. A Mission District native, he also teaches journalism as associate professor at San Francisco State University.

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