From Mobile to Manhattan: Gulf Coast first responders recall helping at Ground Zero


MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — Saturday marks 20 years since the tragedy of 9/11. Some local first responders still have vivid memories of helping those who were injured. The second plane hadn’t even it the twin towers when members of Mobile Fire Rescue’s Disaster Medical Assistance Team were activated to head to New York City.

They didn’t know what they were getting into, but they knew they had to help. Eight members, including firefighters, fire medics, and the medical director deployed to New York City for over two weeks.

WKRG was there as members of the team cared for first responders at Ground Zero. They allowed WKRG’s Devon Walsh and former WKRG Photographer, Randy Lowe, to come with them to view the horror first hand.

The team set up a makeshift medical clinic at the foot of Ground Zero. Devon recalls being “speechless” at the enormity of the destruction.

Dr. John McMahon and Tony Rutland shared their memories two decades later. They say they were humbled to be able to help. They both spoke of the “pile,” the rubble of the Twin Towers.

“The pile was 150, 200 feet tall. It burned was about four or five months before they finally got it out,” McMahon said.

“You could smell that pile along way, blocks and blocks and blocks,” Rutland recalled.

Both men describe helping at Ground Zero as one of the highlights of their careers.

“It was the highlight of a career. It was a highlight of a career to help that many people. We were just there to help,” Rutland said.

“It was 20 years ago, but I can remember vividly some of the things we did up there,” McMahon said.

Rutland still wears a 9-11 pin that he received 20 years ago from a New York City firefighter.
“I have other medals I have received from the fire department. I don’t wear them. I wear this one,” Rutland said.

While many of us have memories of 9/11, these men say it has changed their perspective.

“9/11 means a lot to me. From that day, my daughter said, ‘Daddy, I am thinking about you.’ It’s serious business,” Rutland said.

Devon Walsh will shared her memories of covering the courageous men and women from the Gulf Coast Saturday night at 10 PM.

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