FIREMAN Rob Gargaro has spoken of his emotional trip to New York where he joined thousands of fire crews to mark 10 years since terrorists attacked the World Trade Centre.
He represented Hampshire Fire and Rescue at a moving memorial ceremony where the names of 343 firefighters who died in the tragedy were read out.
With colleague George Deverick, from Fleet, the 33-year-old community liaison officer flew out to the United States to attend a service held at the Firemen’s Memorial, in New York’s Riverside Park.
More than 20,000 firefighters gathered to pay their respects to the servicemen and women who were killed when the Twin Towers collapsed on September 11, 2001, after being struck by two hijacked airliners.
Mr Gargaro, who is based at Waterlooville fire station, said he was amazed at how far people had come on the anniversary, despite having no direct connection with what happened 10 years ago.
‘We decided last year it was something we wanted to do,’ he said. ‘So we asked for permission to go out and represent the service.
‘It was a very emotional event, I wasn’t quite expecting it to be as emotional as it was. There were the families of those who died and the whole day was incredibly moving and sad.
‘People came from as far away as Australia and India just to be there, which shows how powerfully it affected firefighters all over the world.’
The two firefighters flew out on September 8 and returned to England on September 13.
Walking through Times Square in Manhattan Mr Gargaro, from Corbett Road in Waterlooville, said they had been invited to appear on a huge electronic billboard bearing the caption ‘NY LOVES HFRS (Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service).
He said: ‘They took a photo of us and suddenly there we were. Everyone was so friendly and grateful that we had come so far.’
They presented the New York City Fire Department with a plaque from the Hampshire brigade.
And they joined a huge parade of firemen through the city and finished the day by visiting Ground Zero – the site where the towers once stood.
‘Even though we don’t know anyone who died we wanted to mark the occasion,’ he said. ‘Somehow what happened has become more important as the years have passed.
‘Most people can tell you where they were when they heard the news, but in New York everyone has a story to tell. It took them 35 minutes to read all the firefighters’ names out at the service, that’s when it really hit me just how many people had lost loved ones.’