'Nothing prepares you': Local firefighter recalls helping in 9/11 aftermath

District Chief Todd Weiss was working at Edmonton Fire Rescue Service Station 1 when the Sept. 11, 2021, terror attacks took place.

“I was in shock just like everybody else (by) on what I saw on the TV screen,” Weiss said.

Shortly after, he set up an Edmonton call station as requested by the Canadian Red Cross, an organization he has been volunteering with for 23 years.

“And then I got a phone call asking if I would like to go to New York," Weiss recalls. "The answer was, of course, yes,” said Weiss.

Weiss says he arrived in New York City on Oct. 7 and manned a first aid station at a respite centre with a nurse from the United States.

There, he provided firefighters, police, and port authorities with food, clothing, and minor first aid.

“We were only the second building in from the impact zone, and so every day I saw the destruction first hand,” explained Weiss. “Nothing prepares you for that. Nothing (had) prepared me for it then, and nothing has come even close to that since.”

Weiss has worked as a firefighter for 31 years. He says during his time in New York City, he bonded with other first responders who witnessed the impact and after effects of those days.

“The trauma that they went through, the difficulty, it was more than I imagined,” said Weiss. “Firefighters from all over the world share a common bond. We know what each other has done, so that’s the bond that we share.”

On Saturday, Edmonton firefighters will gather to memorialize the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, which killed more fire fighters than any other disaster in history.

“It’s important that we don’t forget,” said Weiss. “We don’t forget our brothers and sisters, whether they’re the police or the fire or the port authority and all the civilians that lost their lives."

Firefighters will gather at the Edmonton Firefighters Memorial Plaza at 10322 83 Ave. in the Strathcona neighbourhood on Saturday. 

With files from CTV News Edmonton's David Ewasuk