HARTFORD, Conn. — Hartford firefighter John Mudrey has spent his entire life answering the call to help people.
After the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, he just couldn’t sit around and not help out the people of New York City.
“People wanted to jump up and go right then, figured it was the right thing to do,” he recalled to FOX61 News. “[It was an] attack on our country, you're a firefighter, a lot of your guys missing, thousands of civilians.”
In the hours after the attacks on the World Trade Center, Hartford firefighters were discouraged from going to Ground Zero.
They were told there was already an army of personnel on-site, and more firefighters would clog the process.
But Mudrey and a friend drove down, reported to a police precinct, and got an escort to Ground Zero.
September 11 Anniversary Photo Gallery
Mudrey said when he arrived, he saw a New York battalion chief standing atop a ten-story pile of debris calling for help, so he scrambled up the slope and went to work.
He didn't find anybody alive in the rubble, but he didn't stop looking.
"There was a case where I found reflective tape, and I thought it was off a fireman's turnout coat, which turned out not to be-- it was from a computer ribbon or whatever,” said Mudrey. "I worked alongside search dogs from around the nation and around the country, and they were all confused because the debris field was so great."
Nobody was thinking about the risks of toxic dust and debris at the time, they were laser-focused on the task in front of them.
It has become a controversy in the years since. Legislation was passed in 2010 to provide health monitoring and treatment to first responders, volunteers and survivors.
Mudrey is well aware of the health risks he incurred, but he has no regrets.
"I understand there's a lot of people got ill from the toxic dust. I myself am showing some red flags, but I would do it all over again,” he said.
When asked about the lessons of September 11, 2001, Mudrey gives a first responder's answer.
"They will sneak in again and do something. I don't know if it will be as horrific as that, but my sense is something will happen again, and when and where who knows but God. And we just have to be vigilant,” he said. “Vigilant, and not let our guard down.”
FOX61 Archive video from 2001
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