As Havering firefighters remember 9/11 victims, one recalls visiting New York in 2001
After Havering firefighters observed a two minute silence on Sunday to remember the victims of September 11, one told the Recorder about his experience visiting New York in the aftermath of the attacks.
A guard of honour was formed at Hornchurch Fire Station, on North Street, by local crews to remember the victims of the terror in 2001.
They were joined by Stephen Dudeney, who lives in Hornchurch and works at brigade headquarters.
Mr Dudeney was among the first four British firefighters who flew to New York days after the attacks in September 2001.
He and his colleagues, based in Poplar at the time, went to offer help for rescue efforts but were too late as US authorities had already organised and staffed them.
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Instead, they visited affected people and started setting up a charity for their US counterparts which eventually raised more than �250,000.
He said: “We saw firefighters in tears. The first fire station we went to had lost 19 people.
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“We couldn’t go anywhere walking around Manhattan without people going over and giving thanks to the British, people would even come up and hug us, they are a lot less stiff upper lip than we are.”
Mr Dudeney, who later worked in Wennington and Harold Hill stations, continued: “As for the World Trade Centre itself, it was the most shocking site I’d ever seen. We were stood right there, if you can imagine it was like standing next to a football ground that was a pile of rubble standing ten storeys high.
“At the time I just thought they’re never going to get right to the bottom of it. When I was walking away, I had to keep turning back and checking what I’d seen.”
The 43-year-old still sees the firefighters he met at the time, and makes regular visits to New York.
Of his first visit, he added: “I was surprised how quickly they’d cleaned up most of the city and it was business as usual.
“At City Hall they’d even turned over the flower beds, but when we went behind the police cordon and it was like just like walking in grey snow from all the dust that was there.”