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Local firefighter looks back at his deployment to ground zero

Posted at 7:41 AM, Sep 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-13 08:41:21-04

BRYAN, Texas — September 11th is a day when many look back, they’re still in awe of what took place.

The day marks the 20th anniversary of the most tragic day in American history.

“It’s still shocking to see videos of the planes hitting the towers and the towers falling and people falling out of the building but at the same time it’s a point of pride for all the task forces across the country and all the first responders who were able to go in and do what they trained their whole lives to do to go try and help, so at the same time it’s mixed emotions,” said Cory Matthews, Assistant Chief for the Bryan Fire Department.

Assistant Chief Cory Matthews was deployed to ground zero for 10 days to assist with the rescue and recovery efforts. He worked for the Task Force 1 team for several years prior to this deployment, but he shared nothing could have ever prepared him for the magnitude of this situation.

When they arrived they had one mission.

“We were all hoping to go in there and find somebody," said Matthews. "You know in the history of earthquakes you know they find people a week or two weeks afterward who were in a void space who were able to just live through it and we were all hoping to do the same.”

He never imagined what he would witness the day his Task Force team arrived in New York.

“It’s hard to really put those feeling into words," added Matthews. "As you’re crossing the bridge from New Jersey into New York and there’s still smoke rising the fires that were in the bottom of the buildings.”

Now he serves his community of Bryan with the 343 firefighters who risked their lives that day in mind.

According to Matthews the pile of rubble was about seven floors high.

“Just overwhelming shock, it was just a huge disaster site," Matthews shared. "Something you can’t really imagine, and the TV and pictures won't give you a true idea of how big that area was.”

Matthews believes there’s a sense of responsibility as Americans but especially for him as a firefighter to never forget the collapse of the twin towers and the tragedy of 9/11.

“Every year Bryan Fire Department does a stair climb and we have laminated cards printed of the 343 firefighters that fell that day and we wear them around our necks to remember.”

Veterans Park will hold an unveiling ceremony of their 9/11 memorial site on Saturday.

The 'War on Terror' site will display bronze statues that will include Gregory Pickard. A fallen Bryan fireman who will represent all fire fighters that lost their lives on 9/11.