NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – The last of the fire chiefs who responded to the disaster at the Twin Towers on Tuesday, September 11, 2001 is retiring from the FDNY.
But as CBS2’s Hazel Sanchez reports, that doesn’t mean his work is over.
Joseph Pfeifer was the first FDNY chief to enter the World Trade Center on September 11th and now the last 9/11 chief to walk away from his career after 37 years of service. He was 45 years old and chief of Battalion 1 in Lower Manhattan when terrorists struck the Twin Towers.
“That day, I saw the first plane aim and crash into the World Trade Center and I knew this was a terrorist attack,” he told Sanchez.
He anchored the command post in the North Tower, advising his fire lieutenant brother Kevin Pfiefer before Kevin joined the rescue mission with 343 other firefighters who lost their lives.
“Everyone that responded that day saw that thousands of people were in the greatest moment of need, and we went in to make a difference in their lives,” he said.
Pfiefer said the unthinkable loss at Ground Zero has served as a foundation to drive him forward. Over the last 17 years, he’s utilized his experience to prepare others for possible terror attacks in the future.
He created the FDNY Center for Terrorism and Disaster Preparedness. On Wednesday, he spoke to a group of first responders about vertical terrorism awareness – how to protect high-rises and tall structures.
“What we’re really about this week is taking traumatic memories and turning them into hope,” he said.
The 62-year-old married father of a grown daughter and son said he will eventually slow down, as much as his 4-year-old granddaughter will let him.
“Already I’m chasing her around,” he said.
Pfiefer will now go from firefighter to teacher, sharing his expertise on disaster preparedness at Harvard and Columbia universities.