Brian Glenn, a New York City (NYC) firefighter on Sept. 11, 2001 was at home recovering from knee surgery when his telephone rang early that morning. His brother, NYC police officer Robert Glenn was calling. "Turn on the TV," Brian recalled of the brief conversation he had and learned of terrorists attacks on America.
Brian told that story at the 19th anniversary 9/11 memorial ceremony at the Forest City Fire Department on Friday morning.
Although just five days post-op from knee surgery on Sept. 11, 2001 Brian said he knew he had to get to work and after several attempts to find transportation, he finally made it to the World Trade Center.
His brother Robert was there along with hundreds of other first responders.
"I didn't hear from him for 16 days, but he made it. My brother left a piece of himself in the World Trade Center that day," Brian said.
"Firemen had no idea that the buildings would come down," he continued.
On the 78th floor, as firemen were running up the stairs they were telling each other, "We can get this, We can get this." But when the buildings fell, so much changed.
Calls were made from all the city's emergency centers that every first responder in the area had to respond to the Twin Towers.
"Firefighters were seen running across the Brooklyn Bridge carrying their firemen gear," Brian said.
"They showed the same courage that day that the Forest City firemen show when they get a call. That's what firefighters do. We knock down fires and save people," he said.
Brian said the NYC fire departments lost 400 years of experience that day as so many of the senior firefighters died.
He recalled the name of a 66-year-old fireman who was planning to retire that year. He died at the scene and so did his firefighter son. They didn't come back home.
While speaking in the bay of the Forest City Fire Station, Brian walked over to a few pairs of shoes on the floor. Displaying emotions, he talked about the fireman's civilian's shoes on the floor.
The shoes represented those of firefighters who have been called out to a fire. They hurried out of their shoes, into fireman's boots and turn-out gear and rush to the fire.
Brian kicked the shoes scattering them across the floor.
"That's what they really look like," he said. "When you go by a fire station and the rigs are not there, go look at the shoes," Brian said.
"On that day there were 343 sets of shoes that didn't make it back home," Brian said of the NYC firefighters who died on 9/11.
"We try to look after everyone. We all do something. All gave some and some gave all," Brian said.
Among those in the audience were his brother, Robert, now retired from the NYC police force and living on Long Island in New York. He drove to Forest City to join Brian for the 9/11 ceremony.
Det. Joe Conway, Jr. a friend of Brian who is also retired from the NYC police force made the drive to Forest City from Lexington when he and his family have retired.
All three men will forever have in common the fact they were at the Twin Towers that terrible day in 2001.
Among other special guests were firefighters and police officers from Forest City, Town Manager Janet Mason, Rutherfordton Mayor Jimmy Dancy, Town Manager Doug Barrick, Rutherfordton Fire Chief Brandon Harrill, Broad River Water Authority Executive Director Maria Hunnicutt and other officers and firefighters.
Forest City Fire Chief Ferrell Hamrick welcomed the group gathered for the memorial ceremony and thanked them for attending the annual ceremony. He told the group the ceremony wasn't publicized due to the virus so the crowd was smaller.
Hamrick introduced Brian Glenn to the group and thanked him for his service as a firefighter.
Hamrick said Glenn has become a friend of the Forest City fire personnel and often comes to the station to "hang out."
"I am a better person because of him," Hamrick said.
Forest City Fire Captain Greg Tate said the morning prayer and the Rutherford County Honor Guard presented the colors and at the conclusion of the ceremony rang the fireman's bell.