NEW YORK (CBS 2) — Ten years later, the images of 9/11 remain seared into memory — scenes of unimaginable terror and depictions of great bravery and humanity.
For one group of firefighters a single photograph evokes the best and worst of that terrible day.
Each time the men of Engine 39 & Ladder 16 answer a call they remember.
“There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t say ‘what the heck? It could have been anybody,’” Firefighter Marty Morgan told CBS 2’s Maurice DuBois on Tuesday.
A photo showing two of New York City’s bravest that died on that day hangs in the firehouse on East 67th Street. The scene is repeated, etched on the front doors and forever in the hearts of the firefighters who work there today.
“You kind of start to realize who they were and who they were as firemen,” one younger firefighter said.
“It’s never gonna fade away,” Firefighter Rich Rattazzi said.
Rattazzi has worked there for 13 years. On Sept. 11, 2001, he raced to the World Trade Center with Lt. Raymond Murphy and Firefighter Robert Curatolo. He snapped the picture just after the first tower collapsed.
“We’re in the middle of West Street walking south. I’m probably 15 feet behind them. I was just pointing at the steel in street and, fortunately, they came out,” Rattazzi said.
Rattazzi pointed out where Murphy was in the picture, in the lower corner, and that only Curatolo’s shoulder was visible.
DuBois: “This is literally the last time you saw these guys?”
In the chaos after the collapse the men separated. While Rattazzi assisted an injured firefighter Murphy and Curatolo headed into the rubble to find other victims.
But minutes later, as the North Tower collapsed, both men were lost. Rattazzi was the only man to make it back that day.
“You think should I have done this? Should I have done that? Why … why was I not able to see them? You wonder why me? You’re going to all these funerals afterwards,” Rattazzi said.
DuBois: “Do you feel relief?”
Rattazzi: “I’m happy I’m here. It wasn’t my time I guess.”
There’s a new generation of firefighters on the job today, but for them the lessons of 9/11 are never far from their minds.
“You hope that you could just become a person like that, be a fireman like that,” one firefighter said.
And the iconic photo is a touchstone Rattazzi carries with him each day.
“The picture is pretty much what firemen did that day. They had a job to do and they got it done. Extreme circumstances and unfortunately too many people died. They’re always still with us. They’re still riding on the back of the rig with us,” he said.
And Rattazzi told DuBois the families of the firefighters were happy he was able to take the photograph.
Please offer your thoughts in the comments section below.