Thursday, September 8, 2011

Today We Remember Security Guard, Robert Martinez

Today We Remember 24-year-old Robert Martinez, Security Guard at the World Trade Center.

On the morning of Sept. 11th, Robert Martinez was running late to work. When he arrived, his regular assignment in a loading dock on the northern part of the complex, had been given to someone else.

He was sent by his supervisor to the south tower’s 78th floors sky lobby for his shift. 

Martinez had never worked on the 78th floor previous to Sept. 11th. He had only begun working at the WTC as a security guard a few months earlier after leaving his job at McDonalds, finding a pay hike in the $11.61 an-hour salary.

At 9:03am Flight 175 slammed into the south tower, creating an impact hole from the 78th to 84th floors.

The 78th floor sky lobby is where numbers of office workers had been waiting for express elevators to evacuate due to the first plane hitting the north tower. The tip of the jet’s left wing grazed the lobby, instantly killing most of a group estimated between 50 and 200 people. 

Only a dozen ultimately escaped from the building. 

About 50 minutes after the plane hit, Firemen, Chief Orio Palmer and Fire Marshal Bucca, finally reached the impact zone on the 78th floor. 

The floor was covered with the bodies of those who perished on impact, and the immobilized living. Many were trapped under marble that was blown off the wall. 

But they discovered that these civilians had not been left alone.

Security guard Robert Martinez, who had survived the impact of Flight 175 had not left the people alone. He had not left his $11.61 an-hour post, on the 78th floor, but rather chose to stay with the injured and immobile civilians.

At 9:57am, the voice of Robert Martinez bursts onto the airwaves of the communication system. His voice rang with desperation, but also with exhilaration and hope because the two firemen had shown up.

An entire elevator car full of people had been trapped on the 78th floor, for nearly an hour, and the firemen were attempting to rescue them.

“Central, please be advised, I need EMS at 78 sky lobby, 2 World Trade Center. I’ve got people coming out of elevator banks. Listen, I’ve got eighteen passengers stuck on the 78th sky lobby elevator. We need EMS over here! The Firefighters are here and they are trying to get them out! They’re trying!”

Suddenly his words were drowned out by crashing noises and then silence.

The South Tower collapsed.

We Will Never Forget Robert Martinez and all of the Heroes of Sept. 11th!

Today We Remember Assistant Chief & City Wide Tour Commander of FDNY, Donald Burns

Today We Remember Assistant Chief and City Wide Tour Commander of FDNY, Donald Burns, who answered his last alarm on Sept. 11th, 2001. He was 61-years-old.

Chief Donald Burns was a decorated 39-year veteran of the department and one of the most knowledgeable men in the FDNY often referred to as the "Human Hagstrom.”

On the morning of Sept. 11th, after the 1st plane hit the north tower, Chief Burns arrived on the scene. In the 9/11 documentary filmed by two French brothers, which by complete chance contains footage of the last moments inside of the WTC, Assistant Chief Burns is seen conferring in the North Tower with Battalion Chief Orio Palmer and Deputy Chief Peter Hayden, among others. 

The South Tower had just been hit and the men were discussing how to respond to the two towers, and the communications problems they faced. They decided that Chief Burns and Battalion Chief Orio Palmer would proceed to the South Tower to set up a command post at the foot of the WTC. 

Before leaving, Chief Burns brought up the issue that the during the ’93 terrorist attack, they had trouble with communications, and they discussed how to communicate through their handy talkys without interference. And then they took off for the south tower. 

A 78-minute voice tape recording recovered from inside the towers contains the voice of Chief Burns. He is heard repeatedly calling for additional companies to the south tower, but many firefighters headed for the south tower became caught in traffic or became confused about which tower they should report to. Minutes later the south tower collapsed.

"Chief Burns was the most intelligent man I had ever met," said Deputy Assistant Chief Albert Turi. "He knew more about New York than anyone - the location of any alarm box and every street in every borough." "Anything you ever wanted to know about the Fire Department, he would have the answer." “If you could be half as good a chief as he was you'd still be a good chief." 

He is fondly remembered as a "walking encyclopedia" for his vast knowledge of the city.

Fighting fires was not just a job to him, but his passion - one that rubbed off on many of his colleagues within the FDNY. He was hailed as an "exceptional" leader within the department. "He could have retired years ago, but it was his love of the job that kept him going. He could not give it up," said retired firefighter Bob Wood. 

Burns left behind his wife Elizabeth, and three children, Lori, Michael, a police officer, and Patrick, a firefighter with Ladder Co. 123 in Brooklyn.

He will be forever in our hearts and always remembered by his warm smile.

We Will Never Forget!

Today We Remember James Marcel Cartier

Last month I received an order for a few bracelets to be customized with the name of a heroic young man, just 26-years-old, James Marcel Cartier.

James was killed on Sept. 11th, and his sister Jennie ordered the bracelets in his memory.

Attached to her order she wrote: "I lost my brother, James Marcel Cartier...he was in the South Tower 105th floor. His heroic efforts saved the life of our sister, Michele, who was in the North Tower. He was our loving, kind, brother...son...our HERO not only on that horrific day...but everyday of his young life. May God Bless him and all those innocent lives lost on September 11, 2001."

Bracelets For America would appreciate you taking a moment to Honor James' life by looking at his memorial page: 

James was in the South Tower where he and a team of electricians were assigned to work in the AON offices. He called his brother John to go get their sister, Michele, out of the North Tower, though he knew he wouldn't make it out. 

His sister Michele wrote this message for her brother:

To My Brother James,

You are and always will be a one of a kind. You have touched so many lives and gave so much of yourself. You were not the kind to stand and watch things happen. You had the vision and made things happen. Your love for family showed time and time again. Knowing that I was in Tower 1, you called our brother John to find me. James, I found brother John in the crowd, because of you. I am here today, because of you. I believe that God gave you the extra time on this earth to help me. But that was your way.
You are forever in my heart. I miss you.
You are my Hero!

Love, your sister, Michele.

We Will Never Forget!

Today We Remember Lt. Thomas O'Hagan, FDNY

Today we remember Lt. Thomas O’Hagan, Engine 6, FDNY, age 43.

He had one boy on each knee and looked so proud and happy, it was a perfect picture of love. No one could imagine the nightmare that was right around the corner.

Tommy was a Lieutenant at Engine 6, which is located just a few blocks away from the World Trade Center. He had been assigned to Engine Company 6 a few weeks before Sept. 11.

The night of September 10th was a pretty quiet one at Engine Co. 6. FF Paul Beyer had made a delicious chicken dinner. Two firemen were studying for their upcoming promotional exam, tossing questions back and forth, and Tommy was giving them pointers on how to study.

On the morning of Sept. 11th, at 8:15 a.m., Engine 6 responded to a call. Upon returning from this call, while waiting at a stop light, they heard a very loud explosion. They looked up and saw a large hole in the north tower of the WTC. Engine 6 was one of the first units to arrive on the scene. 

Lt. Tommy O’Hagan, along with his company, headed up the stairs of the North Tower to what would be their last call. No one who went in from Engine 6, made it out in time, except for one, FF Billy Green, who miraculously survived the collapse.

When Tommy was 7, he tried to stamp out a fire in the Bronx, but his pants caught fire. He ended up with second- and third- degree burns. "Even with all that," said his brother Raymond, "and all the pain that burns cause, Tommy wanted to be a fireman."

His wife says she has no doubt that her husband went into the WTC tower that morning with his usual take-charge attitude.

Tom was an incredibly kind, generous, and gentle man who loved his large family and loyal friends. His twin sons and wife were his pride and joy, and he spent every moment having fun with them.

Tommy was new to fatherhood and was in his element around his boys, his wife says.

"I can see him now coming through the door with his arms outstretched saying, 'How are my boys today? I love you.'"

Tommy O’Hagan will be remembered for his take-charge attitude, his love of golf, cooking, swimming and relaxing on the beach, and impeccable dressing.

His family remembers him with a quotation from Shakespeare: “His life was gentle, and the elements so mixed in him that Nature might stand up and say to all the world, ‘This was a man.’”

His wife believes that if her husband could speak to her, he would comfort her and probably say something like: "Raise the boys, keep them and yourself happy, and move on."

We Will Never Forget!

Today We Remember FF Thomas Hannafin, FDNY

Today we remember FF Thomas Hannafin, Ladder Co. 5, FDNY.

Thomas Hannafin was 36-years-old when he was killed on Sept. 11th after responding to the WTC attacks. He had been a firefighter for 10 years. 

Tom, a local basketball star on Staten Island, followed his oldest brother, Kevin, into the Fire Department, and joined Ladder 5 in Greenwich Village. He lived his life to the fullest every day. He was a family man who was always with his children and wife, a great athlete and team guy.

He was last seen on the 37th floor in Tower 1 on Sept. 11th, 2001.

Kevin Hannafin, Tom’s oldest brother and firefighter assigned to Ladder Co. 119, was in Florida for a wedding when the WTC was attacked. When he turned on the television that Tuesday morning, he knew that his brother's company would be one of the first on the scene. He drove 18 hours straight back to New York. By the next morning, he was searching in the rubble.

That Friday, in a staircase in the ruins of the north tower, Kevin, along with a search team including members of Ladder 5, found the remains of Tommy Hannafin-- a man who had stood 6-foot-3 and who had once led his Staten Island college basketball team to a city championship, earning the nickname "Floor General" and the mantle of local hero.

Finding his brother’s remains was, “the proudest moment of my life," Kevin Hannafin said. "It means a lot for firefighters, in firefighter tradition, that members of their company carry them out. That day, I was part of that company. I carried my brother's helmet down from the top of the heap.”

Thomas’s wife, Rene Hannafin, wrote this letter for her husband after his death:


For 18 and a half years, you were my strength, my hope, my one and only true love.

I will always cherish the memories we made together. You were my best friend when all else had failed around me.

You pulled me up when I was down and always made me laugh with one of your corny jokes. I can still hear you with that crying laughter that you and John would make, which I know he misses so much.

Most of all I remember your smile. It was so contagious and still is.

Kayla and Thomas miss you so much. Every day we talk about you, and remember the funny games that you would play with them. When I put them to bed at night, your watch beeps 10 minutes past the hour and when they hear it, they send you kisses and say how much they miss and love you. It breaks my heart every time.

Your family has been great to the kids and me. My mom and Jimmy miss you tremendously. And thanks, now I have to deal with them all by myself. Ha, ha! The guys at the firehouse have been wonderful, as you are well aware. Our friends and neighbors have been there for us every day.

Hun, I miss you so much and I wish I could turn back the hands of time, to hold you again and kiss your sweet lips.

"My heart will always belong to you."


We Will Never Forget!

Today We Remember FF Paul Gill, FDNY

Today we remember FF Paul Gill, age 34, Engine 54, FDNY.

Paul was killed on Sept. 11th, 2001, helping people out of the Marriott Hotel on the 21st floor.

His mother left this beautiful tribute for her only son:

“It is so difficult to fully comprehend the full impact of what has happened to the small boy who was my son and who is now known to the world as a hero. He started out as a very active child in the womb who kicked day and night.

Raising him was a challenge to be sure. There was never a dull moment. He challenged me to the utmost.

He had a happy upbeat spirit, worked hard, had many friends because he was a friend. He loved life.

When he became a fire fighter, I could not have been more proud of him because I knew that he was serving mankind just as I was called to do as a professional nurse. I felt that part of me was being lived out in him as a public servant. I was proud as could be when I would see him on the fire truck in the neighborhood and I would stop to talk to him and his colleagues. Sometimes I would stop and cry in the street because I could not contain my pride and joy.

At one time I felt compelled to tell him how proud I was of him and he typically replied by saying "No Problem”. I know that I took him by surprise but I knew that it needed to be said by his mother.

Even grown men need to know that their parents love and approve and are proud of them. And I am glad that I had the opportunity to say that to him while I had the chance.

On the night before he died, we had a short routine conversation, which ended in our usual "I love you" before saying goodbye. I am so grateful that I had that last opportunity to say one last expression of love before he went to his death just 12 hours later.

On my birthday he gave me a card which said in it, "Thanks for being my mom' to which I responded jokingly, "I didn't have any choice.” When his birthday rolled around the following month I wrote of course, 'Thanks for being my son".

This year since he wasn't here to celebrate my birthday with me, I took out that wonderful card and placed it with the other cards that I had received. This is just a small window of what it is like to be the mother of a hero. He was an ordinary person in so many ways. He did not think that he did anything unusual. It came naturally for him to do all the wonderful things that he did. 

Truly great people are usually that way they do what they have to do and don't look for acknowledgement. I always told him that I was proud of him but that he should not be a hero. He would always do what I told him not to do, so I guess that I should not be surprised that he did go ahead and become a hero.

I think of him every day. Some days are worse than others. Sometimes I wonder if this really did happen and it feels as if I am finding out about this for the very first time. Sometimes it feels as if I once had a son many years ago and sometimes it feels as if it can't possibly be almost 8 months since I last saw him and spoke to him.

I'm glad for him in some ways that he is at rest now because he worked so hard and had so many responsibilities in life. His life was cut short, but it will never be forgotten by those who know him and who loved him.

He gave his life so that others might live.

I look forward to joining him one day. Until then I hold on to the memories and hope that he is able to know that we all miss him and love immensely.


We Will Never Forget!