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World Trade Center veteran recalls 9/11 at Ranson remembrance

September 12, 2008|By DAVE McMILLION

RANSON, W.Va. -- Frank McCluskey on Thursday clued in about 125 people on what it was like to be a firefighter in New York City the day of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

McCluskey, provost and executive vice president of American Public University in Charles Town, was a volunteer fire chief in suburban New York who responded to the World Trade Center.

At a 9/11 remembrance at Independent Fire Co. along Fairfax Boulevard, McCluskey recalled how emergency radio frequencies were jammed and how cell phone networks were overwhelmed.

After both planes hit the towers, there were rumors of more incoming planes and poisonous gas, McCluskey said.

McCluskey recalled how one firefighter broke 14 bones, never to return to work again, and how one fire captain pulled a ladder truck up to the scene and looked into the deep blue sky.

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The captain told his colleagues to look at the sky because "we're never going to see it again. Now let's go earn our pay."

A bagpiper playing "Amazing Grace" slowly walked through the crowd, giving the ceremony an even more haunting feeling, and Washington High School marching band member Ryan Kidwiler played taps on his horn.

Kidwiler played in his new red, white and blue Patriots uniform and his spotless white shoes stood in contrast to the green grass beneath him.

"It was kinda nerve wracking," said Kidwiler, when asked after the service how he felt.

A bell on a table was rung in a particular pattern meant to pay tribute to fallen firefighters.

"We thank you, Lord, that you have given us such a beautiful day to remember," said Henry Christie, Independent Fire Co. chaplain.

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