Lessons learned following “9/11 in NYC” help Portland firefighters be better prepared

Portland firefighter Ed Hall was on hand to help with the rescue effort after the World Trade twin towers fell in New York City. See why he was honored in Pioneer Square five years later …

Before taking his place on the stage at the 9/11 remembrance ceremony at Pioneer Courthouse Square, Ed Hall took a moment to reflect on how his experiences have helped him better train our firefighters here in Portland.

Story and photo by David F. Ashton
On the morning of September 11th five years ago, 25-year veteran Ed Hall, firefighter assigned to Truck 2 at Portland Fire & Rescue’s training station, got a call from co-worker Dwight Englert asking Hall to work a shift for him so he could travel to New York City and help at the World Trade Center.

Instead of working Englert’s shift, Hall said he, too, wanted to be part of the rescue effort, and the two agreed to meet at PDX. At the airport, the pair met two additional Portland firefighters on their way to New York. The four were on the first plane allowed to fly.

“We didn’t know what to expect, or how we would help,” Hall said. “We offered to do what we could.” While the local public safety workers first looked askance at the Portland foursome, they soon appreciated the hard work and professionalism they brought to the effort.

Representatives from Portland Fire & Rescue stations around Portland gathered with other public safety workers and nearly 500 citizens on September 11, 2006 to remember those who died in the attack on the World Trade Center towers, and thank those who helped in the rescue efforts

Five years later
Mayor Tom Potter asked Portland Fire & Rescue to help organize a remembrance ceremony on September 11th; Hall was asked to join dignitaries on the stage set up at Pioneer Courthouse Square.

Before he took his place on stage, he told us his story. “Looking back, it’s tough to put it into words. It is an event that will be part of our national psyche for a long time. There are different ways of looking at it. I prefer to look at it as what ‘went right’ as we helped out at this tragic event.”

Training to be the best
Hall says he believes Portland firefighters are some of the best-trained in the country. And, his experience in New York has helped him keep in mind what is important when he trains new firefighters coming to the bureau.

“When I talked to survivors, firefighters, and police officers at the World Trade Center, I heard the same thing. It was that public safety workers were so well-trained that they could act independently that really counted. They were able to refocus, and redirect their energies on the spot. When the towers collapsed, the chain of command was broken. But, these people thought quickly, and were able to make initial rescues.”

Hall said a firefighter’s probationary period lasts for a year. Ten months of that is intense training.

“We teach them how to perform many tasks, use a wide variety of equipment, and how to work as a team. But more than that, they learn how think actively and work safely. Ultimately, when people can put all of their knowledge and skill together in an unexpected circumstance, they really shine.”

When you see Portland firefighters at work, now you know that they are better-trained than ever, thanks to the experience Ed Hall gained as a 25-year veteran here, as well as his experiences on a fateful day in New York City.

¬© 2006 David F. Ashton ~ East PDX News

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