Ground Zero


It was 18 years ago that the world changed. As I walked out of my apartment on 6th ave and 4th st. I was greeted with "a plane just hit the towers". I didn't understand what that meant as I walk the 50 feet to 6th ave and looked downtown. All I could see was the gap in the building and the flames and smoke flowing out of the building. At first glance I assumed it was a small plane because of the size of the buildings. So I walked to my office through Washington Park, looking back every few minutes at the disaster, still not realizing what had happened. As I entered my office the entire company was gathered around the TV capturing as much information as they could. Within minutes of my arrival the second plane hit. Now the world had changed. No one could believe what they were seeing. As we all tried to find an understanding for what we were watching, the first tower fell.

I headed to the elevator, knowing that the first line of defense had fallen. All of those years of fire-rescue training from the NAVY kicked in. I knew that a command center would have been established at the foot of the first tower hit. I walked back to my apartment changing from dress clothes to some jeans and a black tee shirt. Back out of my apartment now heading to 6th ave this time to head downtown. As the corner was turned on to 6th I could not believe my eyes, both towers were gone. Street by street encountering wooden horses and police guarding entrances to each block. "Fire Rescued Trained Volunteering" is what came from my mouth to be acknowledged with a waving arm to keep on the path.

After arriving within 4 blocks of ground zero on the west side highway was a gathering of fireman, police, paramedics and more. I found the most senior fireman that seemed to be in charge. "Fire Rescued Trained Volunteering" came out of my mouth once again. He thanked me and guided me to an area where 8 or 9 other volunteers were gathered. The next thing I heard was "You, big guy come here" he told me he was assigning me to work with a paramedic who lost his partner in the first building that had fallen. I was introduced to the paramedic and instructed to go into the ambulance and get latex gloved and respirators. While I was in the ambulance looking for the gloves the paramedic walked in and said give me your arm. He pulled out a sharpie and asked" What do you want, your social security number or your phone number? To this day I don't remember what I said or what he put on my arm. What is remembered is that this was being done should I be killed.

"You two head in" were our orders. We were the first ambulance into ground zero after the second tower fell. As we drove down Westside highway a road and neighborhood I knew so well, I had no idea where I was. Nothing made any sense but there was no time for that, a body was found. A body bag, a group of people I didn't know, a man killed found below debris from the falling buildings. My right hand holding the body bag, my left on the shoulder of the man in front of me. This team of six carried an American from Ground Zero.

Behind a building across the street from ground zero was an area set up as a triage. After about two hours at ground zero I went to this area for a break. A tap on my shoulder came with an offering of water and an orange. It was a paramedic from Brooklyn, his hat and side locks made it clear of his belief in Judaism. He stood with me until I drank all the water, insisting I eat the orange. He would not leave me alone until the orange had been eaten. I was mystified of his insistence to eat the orange, suddenly the realization; his accent was not from Brooklyn but from Israeli. This was the type of horror he had grown up with, knowing how important the orange and water were to keep me safe and hydrated. I thanked him and walked away. I had to find a place to cry, I have never cried so hard in my life. Growing up in Westfield, a very Jewish community learning from the parents of my friends the hardships of this incredible community. It was never so clear to me, as it was that day, of the heartaches my friends and their families have known throughout time. I will probably never see the man from Brooklyn again to thank him for teaching me the life lesson as he did. In the middle of another day of horror in his life came a kind word, some water and an orange to nourish. I have had the honor of working with incredible teams serving in the NAVY, football and in business. But on that day, I was witness to the greatest team the world has ever seen. It was America at its best, shoulder to shoulder working as one. Today let us remember that sprit, please take a moment and put your hand on a shoulder and offer someone the fruit of kindness. It just might change their life.



Rich Bodmer




Rich Bodmer


Racing To Remember

364 Springfield Ave

Westfield, NJ 07090

(646) 263 5234