Remembering 9/11 with a First Responder

This firefighter's life changed forever when he arrived at Ground Zero just after the South Tower collapsed. Here, Richard Alles discusses what he saw on 9/11.

Beacon to the 9/11 community

On September 11, 2001, nearly 3,000 people died in the attacks on the World Trade Center. Firefighter Richard Alles had just finished a 24-hour shift as chief of the FDNY's Battalion 58 before the first plane hit the North Tower. Thousands of emergency responders rushed to Ground Zero and dug through rubble and debris searching for survivors. This went on from the day of the attack until May 2002. Years later, it was confirmed that the fumes responders inhaled were carcinogenic — and in many cases, lethal. 99% of exposed firefighters reported at least 1 new respiratory problem after working at Ground Zero according to

“The TV was on the news and the events of the day were unfolding. Initially it sounded like it was a commuter plane had crashed into one of the twin towers. While we were on the way over there, a second plane had hit and it took us awhile to muster, a good couple of hours of getting manpower, to get equipment, to be able to operate there. So, by the time we left, I already knew that both towers had collapsed. I arrived on the scene on September 11th about 20 minutes after the second collapse. So mentally I was prepared for the magnitude of the devastation. But it's one thing to have information and another thing to visually see it and try to process it. And it's very difficult. It's almost it's surreal,” recalls the fireman.

After retiring, Alles lobbied for the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, which provides benefits and economic support to 9/11 survivors and their families. It received national attention after comedian Jon Stewart’s testimony before Congress, urging them to extend funding. In July 2019, Congress passed a bill that extends funding through 2090, which President Trump signed into law. After years of debate, construction on the 9/11 memorial began in 2006, and finally opened in 2011. Alles says he wants the stories of 9/11 survivors to be remembered because for many, the emotional and physical burdens are lifelong.


09/11/2019 4:12 PMupdated: 09/11/2020 3:38 PM


  • Navas S.
    01/09/2021 17:10

  • Esmeraldo N.
    09/19/2020 14:00

    Inside job .

  • Amelia H.
    09/17/2020 01:05

  • Dp P.
    09/16/2020 20:22


  • Anne B.
    09/16/2020 10:33

    Every single person that was killed on 9/11 by the muslim terrorists are greatly missed by all of America....I will never forget!

  • Erica S.
    09/15/2020 18:08

    Never forgotten. 🙏🙏💙💙💜

  • Christian B.
    09/15/2020 06:29

    demolition experts know that’s not how buildings go down. The planes were just for show. These events was planned and was part of their business it shows how the corrupt would sacrifice innocent people just to gain money and an excuse to invade countries for their resources.

  • Edward K.
    09/14/2020 22:09

    It was an inside job.

  • Sherry H.
    09/13/2020 22:17

    From England I was 6 months pregnant came back from a zoo at 14:30 ish with a neighbour. I said I just need to sit for a bit put the news on and saw the most horrific thing 2nd plane. My heart went to America. I have flash backs and always remember 1 man in particular. I pray for him all the time x 19yrs on still the worst thing I've ever seen 💗

  • Хачатрян А.
    09/13/2020 09:50

    My opinion was and does not change about this; it was rigged by the secret services to start a war in Iraq !!! From the foundation of the explosion, everyone naively believed in Ben Laden that he is, yes there was, he was born by the same US special services.

  • Al M.
    09/13/2020 03:28

    So, you dont have annual remembrance day when america start to invade middle east countries for oil?????

  • Christine F.
    09/12/2020 21:38

    God bless them all

  • Kunal G.
    09/12/2020 18:57

    RIP all inocent Soul who lost there Life in this Terror attack. 🙏🙏😥😥💔💔

  • Mary O.
    09/12/2020 17:17

    I remember being so scarred for my nephew because he worked there.

  • Usman G.
    09/12/2020 14:43

    Those explosives were planted with extreme planning the building went down well. Good job America!!

  • Tomislav N.
    09/12/2020 11:02

    Jew business

  • محمد ب.
    09/12/2020 09:51

    أظن أنها خدعه من المخابرات وكان الضحية هم الشعب الأمريكي

  • Ahmad T.
    09/12/2020 06:12 the plane fuel melt all those steel structure, and mighty building come crumble like butter after getting hit by plane at the inside job for an excuse to invade another country..well planned usa..bravo.

  • Moud B.
    09/12/2020 06:06

  • Mohammed H.
    09/12/2020 01:08

    I reckon a toddler would say it was inside job

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