Locals called to firefighting after 9/11 attacks

·2 min read

Sep. 11—Firefighter Evan Kardosh and Chief Patrick Wiley of Meadville Central Fire Department were among more than a dozen firefighters in full gear and numerous other participants making their way up and down the stairs of the grandstand Friday evening at the Crawford County Fairgrounds.

The planned 17 laps were a simulation of the journey up the 110 stories of the World Trade Center's twin towers, the daunting challenge that greeted emergency responders after terrorists crashed planes into both buildings on Sept. 11, 2001.

Among the 2,977 people killed in the attacks were more than 400 emergency response personnel, including 343 New York City firefighters.

Kardosh helped to organize the tribute to 9/11 victims and fundraiser for families of firefighters killed in the line of duty, but he said he had a hard time comprehending the experience of the firefighters who entered the twin towers that day.

"When you hear the stories and you hear directly from these firefighters and the radio transmissions — they knew that they weren't coming out," he said. "I've never had that.

"I couldn't imagine walking up to that and saying, 'This could be it, but I'm doing it for my fellow man,'" he added, "because that's the only hope they have."

A member of Meadville Central Fire Department since early 2019, Kardosh was a Conneautville Elementary fourth grader playing soccer in gym class when he and his classmates were notified of the attacks. He traces his desire to be a firefighter to that day — one of the few that he still remembers vividly from his elementary school career.

The day stood out for Wiley as well. As shift supervisor for an Erie County ambulance service that day, he recalled canceling non-emergency trips and readying supplies. After the planes struck the towers but before the extent of the destruction was clear, he recalled, the ambulance service was notified that in the event of survivors overwhelming New York hospitals, they would be flown to regional hospitals, including those in Erie.

"Sadly, it was all for nothing," Wiley added. "It was a long 24-hour shift."

Wiley had made known his desire to be a firefighter since the time he could speak, and two months after 9/11 he took the civil service exam that eventually led to his joining Meadville Central the following September. The determination of firefighters like those who died in the twin towers was part of what attracted him to the profession.

"In my mind they were doing what they were trained (to do) and what was best for the community," he said earlier this week. "I like to think it's the same as any other firefighter, paid or volunteer, would do to try and save as many as they could."

Mike Crowley can be reached at (814) 724-6370 or by email at mcrowley@meadvilletribune.com.

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