DARLINGTON, SC (WMBF) – A pee dee man saw firsthand the devastation of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and is now using his experience to comfort first responders in the community.
Darlington Fire Department chaplain Frank Stoda worked for Virginia Task Force 1 on September 11, 2001.
Stoda was on vacation when he learned that two planes had hit the World Trade Center. He was told that his task force would be dispatched to New York City immediately.
“I got another call around 10am or so and was told we weren’t going to New York. The Pentagon was hit, ”said Stoda.
Stoda and his task force spent the next 14 days propping up the walls of the collapsing building when kerosene ignited fires around them. In search of signs of life, they made their way through the building.
“You didn’t walk, you crawled, because most of the area was covered with four, five or six feet of rubble,” said Stoda.
Stoda said they worked tirelessly to remove rubble and victims from the rubble. He said he didn’t have time to think about what happened until weeks later.
“Fire brigade chaplains and CISM come into play and help you put that in a filing cabinet in a drawer in a closet and help you close that drawer and get on with your life,” said Stoda.
Stoda said his task force’s family support team helped him and others weather the crisis.
Upon retirement, Stoda became a chaplain of the Darlington Fire Department so he could use his experience to help fire fighters in his own community.
“It’s my turn to sit down and let them tell me about their problems and give them my ear,” said Stoda.
Stoda asks people not only to remember the 20th anniversary of September 11th. He wants people to think about the days after the attacks.
“That day brought the people of the United States closer than it has been in a long time,” said Stoda. “We have to think about this and that closeness to bring the United States back together.”
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