NY Firefighter Remembers September 11th in Melbourne

Associated Press - September 11, 2009

"My fellow brother firefighters and sister firefighters in Australia are feeling the pain and know of the sacrifice of that day as much as we do and I see that on their faces."- New York fire battalion chief Jay Jonas

New York fire battalion chief Jay Jonas was trapped on the fourth floor of the northern tower of the World Trade Centre when it collapsed on September 11, 2001.

He marked the terrorist attack's eighth anniversary by sharing his memories of that day with firefighters in Melbourne - many of whom experienced one of Australia's darkest days, the Black Saturday bushfires.

"I take great comfort in knowing that my fellow brother firefighters and sister firefighters in Australia are feeling the pain and know of the sacrifice of that day as much as we do and I see that on their faces when I talk to them," he said.

Mr Jonas made it to the 27th floor of the World Trade Centre before he ordered his crew to return to the ground level after they saw and felt the south tower collapse.

His group was trapped in the stairwell of the fourth floor when the north tower collapsed above them and three hours later they were able to get out with the help of rescuers.

Mr Jonas' crew were among only 14 firefighters who entered the towers and survived, while 343 of their colleagues died.

He dismisses suggestions that his actions eight years ago were heroic.

"We were embarrassed by the press we got (for September 11) because this is what firefighters do every day," he said.

He sees himself as one of the lucky ones who can enjoy his three children's special moments, unlike many of his colleagues who perished that day.

"I recognise that a lot of my friends who died that day, their children don't have fathers who can attend their football and their baseball games or dance recital concerts," he said.

On Friday, Mr Jonas was accompanied by one of the firefighters who invited him to Australia, Paul Ritchie.

The Melbourne firefighter will visit Mr Jonas' home town on September 11 next year when he and 14 of his colleagues complete a run in honour of firefighters who perished.

Called the Tour of Duty, the Australian firefighters will run about 7,500 kilometres in a relay across America from Los Angeles to New York - arriving at Ground Zero on September 11.

"We're very proud to be doing what we're doing next year," Mr Ritchie said.

"It's making a statement from Australia's perspective to say we haven't forgotten you."

And that means a lot to Mr Jonas.

"For most people they have moved on from September 11. For many of us it's September 12 and we still feel the pain and the loss," Mr Jonas said.