Sep 11, 2011 5:28 PM by David Ortiviz
Hundreds of brave first responders sprung into action on September 11, 2001--risking their lives to save others. We recently talked with a New York firefighter who remembers the pain and heroism as our nation was attacked.
Michael Bellantoni was asleep when the first plane crashed into World Trace Center in New York. His wife quickly woke him up. "Telling me a plane had accidentally flew into one of the twin towers," said Bellantoni. But Bellantoni and our nation soon realized this was no accident.
"We had two small children. We were watching it on television. The second plane hit and that's when I knew I was going to work that day," said Bellantoni.
Bellantoni is a New York firefighter. He was at ground zero 20 minutes after the second tower collapsed. "And obviously I was scared. Most guys don't admit that or won't admit that, but you just didn't know what you were getting into, that was the biggest thing," said Bellantoni.
Although afraid of the unkown, Bellantoni and many other first responders quickly responded to the scene."I'm what they call a good soldier. If you're told to do something you do it, and you just work around the difficulties," said Bellantoni.
As first responders rushed into the danger zone, some people ran in fear. But in those frantic moments, Bellantoni says he saw something remarkable happen. As first responders put out fires and helped victims he says ordinary civilians also stopped to help strangers. "You see how everybody came together. Everybody, did more than was expected," said Bellantoni.
It was the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil in history and rescuers soon faced a dim reality. Underneath the twisted metal and rubble lay hundreds of bodies. All told close to 3,000 people died in the 9/11 attacks, including 343 firefighters.
"The only reason the emergency service people stand out and I believe rightfully so, is because they ran in to get people out, so let's honor them, but let's honor and remember everybody," said Bellantoni. Bellantoni spread that message during a 9/11 memorial ceremony on Pueblo's riverwalk last month.
As we reflect on that fateful day 10 years later, Bellantoni thinks the most important lesson we can take away from the attacks is to remain vigilant. "That's the part that scares me is that everybody forgets that, there are people out there that hate our freedoms and they'll do anything to take that away," said Bellantoni.
Bellantoni planned to be at ground zero today to pay his respects. He's says it's a yearly tradition he plans to continue for the rest of his life.