KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL)—Kingsport Fire Department Deputy Chief Jim Carter remembers where he was when he first found out about the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center.
He gathered around the television in Kingsport Fire Station 1 when details about what had occurred at the Twin Towers were still unclear.
“Then the second plane hit,” said Carter. “That’s when everybody knew that it was an attack.”
More than 20 years later, Carter said his memory of the call to help is just as vivid.
“It was the night after,” said Carter, recalling his mentor Jim Gargan reaching out to form a rescue squad. “We had to meet in Lynchburg, Virginia on Friday to assemble the team.”
Carter traveled to New York to aid in rescue and recovery efforts, first at Ground Zero and at Fresh Kills Landfill in Staten Island, which served as a sorting ground for rubble from the towers.
“Our job was to take all the fire apparatus apart and emergency vehicles,” said Carter. “What we were doing was gathering personal effects and, of course, any remains that might have been attached to those things.”
Carter and other volunteers from the region spent nine days on what was operating as a temporary military base, paired alongside volunteers from the Long-Island-based Massapequa Fire Department.
The work, Carter, said was one of the most meaningful times of his career.
“It was kind of exciting and depressing all at the same time, I guess,” said Carter. “It was the big job for us, but we knew there was a lot of people who lost their lives, especially the firefighters and police officers and so forth.
“At that time, we didn’t know how many.”
Though the work was heavy and difficult, Carter said he would go on a rescue mission again in a heartbeat.
“That’s what we do,” said Carter.