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Tallahassee Firefighters describe trip to Ground Zero after 9/11

Published: Sep. 10, 2021 at 7:06 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - The days, weeks and months that followed the 9/11 terror attacks, brought firefighters and first responders from across the nation to what they call “the pile,” searching first for survivors - and then victims - buried beneath tons of steel and debris.

Two firemen from Tallahassee made that trip. Not sifting through the debris, but bringing the comfort of brotherhood and tens of thousands of dollars for the families of the fallen.

We had a chance to sit down and talk with them 20 years later.

“It’s so cliche when people say when people are running out of the building, we’re running towards the building, but that’s the truth. The honest truth,” TFD Battalion Chief Jarvis Bedford said.

Tallahassee firemen Jarvis Bedford and Hal Eastman couldn’t get to New York fast enough.

“If we could all get on a plane or on a bus to work that pile we all would have been there,” Bedford said. “As firefighters, we just felt like we had to do something.”

The two firefighters helped to organize a boot drive on street corners across the city. The response was overwhelming.

“It was non-stop,” retired TFD Battalion Chief Hal Eastman recalled. “People would actually see us and turn ...go down the road and turn around and come back so they could give money. I’m almost getting chill bumps talking about it now 20 years later. People would pull up crying you know, ‘we’re so sorry’ and this kind of stuff. It was very touching to see it.”

The boot drive raised more than $60,000 for the families at FDNY’s Rescue 1, the station with the most casualties on 9/11.

Bedford and Eastman boarded a plane for New York City and hand-delivered a check as Rescue 1 firefighters continued to work the pile at Ground Zero.

“It was a roller coaster of emotions,” Bedford said. “It’s one of those things that until you see it and until you’re in that environment, it’s really hard to comprehend the magnitude of that incident.”

The firefighters sharing hugs and laughs and tears with the men and women of Rescue 1 and riding to Ground Zero each day.

An FDNY fireman sifting through debris from the World Trade Center’s fifth floor sent both TFD firefighters home with what they call a piece of “the rock.”

“A lot of this stuff was just coming out in five-gallon buckets,” Eastman said as the men showed us chunks of debris they brought back to Tallahassee.

“It’s a reminder that freedom comes with a price and I can’t help but think of the 343 firefighters who lost their lives that day,” Bedford said.

The firefighters reflecting on a day 20 years ago, its losses and its lessons.

“This piece of rock we’re still fighting over to this day,” Eastman said. “My hopes for this country is that we find peace. That we figure out how we can live in peace.”

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