I left my house the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, to report to work as the store manager of Sports Authority on Woodhaven Boulevard in Queens. As I pulled up to my store the second plane, United Airlines flight 175, crashed into the World Trade Center’s south tower.
Not fully understanding what was going on, I turned on the radio, tuning on the news. After learning of the catastrophe, I sent my employees home and closed the store. I reported to my firehouse, Inwood fire headquarters, and waited for orders.
I recall sitting on the patio of the fire department and F-16 fighter jets were flying overhead, they certainly were impressionable and loud.
The Nassau Country Fire Marshals were dispatching various volunteer departments to cover Fire Department of New York City stations to standby as they were called onto the scene.
Some of our apparatus was staged at the Belmont racetrack and eventually to various city houses. Inwood Ex-Chief Thomas Lynch drove one of our engines, with a crew, to one of the Queens stations
Inwood Rescue 318 went to the scene downtown. A group of members, myself included went to relieve our members on the rescue truck. We then got an assignment to report to Liberty Street to help the city crews.
The memory that sticks in my head after getting into the area was the ground and trees covered in white powder with pieces of computer printing paper scattered about.
As we passed Ten House, 10 Truck and 10 Engine located at 124 Liberty Street, we were amazed to see the complete front of the building demolished. We proceeded to the pile. We formed a line up to the top of the pile, and handed up tools, air packs and water. If we were lucky, we found air conditioning ducts or structural steel to walk on. This gave us firm ground which helped from sliding down.
We worked hand and hand with the city. If a firefighter was found, only members from that fire company, and only that company, would extricate the body. It was a solemn display of brotherhood that I will never forget. Another picture that is embedded in my mind the steel structures stick up from the pile of rubble. They looked like giant wafers sticking out of the ground.
While our team was working on the pile, we were told that Nassau County Emergency Services were just above us cutting rebar and trying to extract a body. We found out later, one of our own members, Ex-Chief Anthony Rivelli Sr., was part of the Emergency Services Unit team.
There was an enormous sense of camaraderie among the “vollies” and the members of New York City Fire Department. Many Inwood members are also members of FDNY and receive valuable training from both.
Two very dear friends of mine were lost that dreadful day, Joseph Rivelli Jr. and Thomas Jurgens. Joey is the cousin of Anthony Rivelli Sr. and was assigned to Ladder Truck 25 and Tommy is the nephew of current Town of Hempstead Councilman Bruce Blakeman.
Jurgens was on duty as a senior court officer. Tommy also held the rank as captain and was an emergency medical technician with the Meadowmere Park Fire Department. Another Five Towns first responder lost that day was Kevin O’Rourke assigned to Rescue 2.
Shortly after 911, Inwood, along with many other volunteer fire departments opened their houses to the city fire departments for refreshments and meals after funeral services.
On Sept. 11, 2002, the first-year anniversary of the tragic event, a group of our members went into the city, in full dress uniforms and we marched, with respect, to Ground Zero for the reading of the names of those who perished that day.
Every year since then, many towns, villages and departments gather to remember and pay their respect to the souls we lost that day, thus the words, “Never Forget!”
Parise is an Inwood Fire District commissioner since 2018, his second stint having been a commissioner from August 1990 to August 2000. He joined the Inwood Fire Department in February 1991 and has been a lieutenant, captain, deputy chief and department chief.