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

  • Rajiv B.
    09/17/2019 19:33

    Some muslims still say American Govt killed their own people. I just wonder why only muslims people think like that?

  • Arqam S.
    09/15/2019 17:26

    Seriously heart breaking to know USA Government killing their own people and then not helping properly So sad

  • Shashank S.
    09/14/2019 20:01

    They killed 15k Americans and Americans killed millions in return.. just like pearl harbour.. is such response justified? No media will ever ask

  • Polly G.
    09/12/2019 14:27

    Saddest memory.Sincere condolances to victims of the assault.

  • Tanveer A.
    09/12/2019 13:25

    Still wondering how 2 planes did a far better "controlled demolition" than a real controlled demolition! Innocents were killed! But the wrong people are blamed!

  • Ahilya C.
    09/12/2019 11:33

    26/11 9/11 awful days my homage to martyrs 🙏

  • Vikrant S.
    09/12/2019 11:28

  • Saqib J.
    09/12/2019 08:11

    We gave you your most precious religious place bro... No one on this side of the border supports bloodshed... What so ever 9/11 was, innocent people died and no religion on earth tells to do that.. Peace.

  • Hameedul A.
    09/12/2019 08:06

    It's a controlled demolition!!!

  • Swati C.
    09/12/2019 07:30

    Condolences 💐

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