For firefighters, a different 9/11 tribute

September 11, 2011 7:56:39 PM PDT
Two presidents visited the September 11 Memorial at Ground Zero in New York on Sunday, along with mayors, other dignitaries and the families of survivors. But there is one notable group that did not receive a formal invitation -- as it turns out, they have their own tradition on the anniversary of the terror attack.

Contrary to what you might have seen at home, there was more than one ceremony at Ground Zero on Sunday.

In a fire station known as Ladder 10, there was a reunion that felt more like a wake.

"We lost five here," said one firefighter.

Those five lost are on a wall of the firehouse, cast in bronze. Those five make up 343 firefighters lost in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Ladder 10, located just a few blocks away from Ground Zero, is where family and friends come to gather on the Sept. 11 anniversary.

"My parents would agree that 9/11 took a toll on their relationship and ended their 24-year marriage," said Krista Dancona, the daughter of a firefighter.

Dancona had not been back to the firehouse since she was 10 years old. The night her father, Peter, brought her to work was just two weeks before the World Trade Center towers fell.

Peter Dancona is just one of the firemen who escaped that day, but not unscathed or unscarred.

"Most of the men who survived 9/11 are either sick, or retired, or -- hard to say -- dead," Dancona said. "I have a problem breathing. I don't sleep at night. I stop breathing when I sleep. I have had three operations on my sinuses."

But no one complains about those problems on the anniversary of Sept. 11. As Ladder 10 has done on every Sept. 11, they observed the four moments this day -- two impacts, two collapses.

The dust and the rubble -- about 30 feet worth -- that once covered the station is now gone. The emotional kind of rubble and dust, though, remains.

"I was supposed to be working that day," Peter Dancona said. "My friend Jeff Olsen worked for me. He died in my place."

"I am going to stand by his side and make him smile," said Krista Dancona. "All I want to do is make him smile."

"We're bred to do this," Peter Dancona said. "Not everyone can do this."

Krista Dancona said, based on the post-traumatic stress she's seen in her father, she is studying to become a social worker.


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