By Brenda Flanagan
“Every time I come to work, I look across the river and the memory just keeps coming back,” said Jersey City Fire Department Deputy Chief Anthony Della Rosa.
Della Rosa works under a photo of the North Tower collapsing on 9/11, viewed from the Jersey City waterfront.
“And that morning we actually sent some units over. And at that second, I knew that things had changed here,” he said.
Today the skyline shows new towers rising downtown and Della Rosa’s busy deploying the day shift.
Jersey City was the only fire department in New Jersey called to assist on 9/11. Deputy Chief John Alston remembers.
“I didn’t see any of it until my neighbor came running out and said, ‘John! John! A plane hit the World Trade Center!’ The first thing that came to mind was, this wasn’t an accident,” he said.
“This Sunday marks the 15th anniversary of that fateful day, when this nation was attacked, when the security threats we faced were redefined and the world fundamentally changed,” said Sen. Bob Menendez. “The Jersey City Fire Department stood up when the towers fell. And today, with this federal grant, we’re standing up for them.”
Today, New Jersey’s two U.S. senators announced an $8.4 million federal SAFER grant had been awarded to the Jersey City Fire Department, which will allow them to retain 45 currently working firefighters and hire 16 new ones.
“This grant is going to prevent what could’ve been potential layoffs and actually help us to add to our manpower, woman power in this agency. This is worthy of celebration,” said Sen. Cory Booker.
“Today’s announcement is the largest SAFER grant that Jersey City’s ever received, and it’s going to certainly bolster our fire department well into the future,” said Mayor Steve Fulop.
Della Rosa says about 30 veterans retired from the department this year. But new ones at the academy stand ready to roll. And 9/11 still drives recruitment, even though, as Alston notes, the job’s more dangerous than ever.
“We’re not just responding to the emergency. We have to think also that you’re a target at that time,” Alston said. “It’s a lot to think about, when you’re responding, but you’ve got to put it in its proper perspective, just like they did 15 years ago. They still went into the buildings, no matter what.”
Gov. Chris Christie ordered flags lowered to half staff on Sunday, in memory of the victims of 9/11. Here at the fire department it’s a day they will never forget.