An unforgettable task

Published 10:44 am Saturday, September 10, 2011

Josh Goyet, left, now a captain with the Virginia Beach Fire Department, works as a member of the Franklin Fire Department to remove debris to help restore phone service to parts of Manhattan. -- Submitted / Jamie Brown

Firefighter Frank Puccini is picture amongst the devastation in New York City in September 2001. -- Submitted / Jamie Brown

FRANKLIN—A little girl’s pink shoe left the Rev. Hoyle Green haunted 10 years ago.

Images of that shoe, which he spotted at night on a metal beam with a foot inside, caused Green to wake up in cold sweats long after he returned home to Franklin from two weeks of helping with the cleanup from the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.

“That one little thing put me in a depression,” he said. “I didn’t want to see people. I didn’t want to talk to anybody.”

A member of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Virginia Task Force II, Green has relived that day outside the Pentagon in his dreams.

“It was like that Groundhog Day movie,” he said. “It was the same thing over and over again.”

Green was a safety officer and chaplain, fitting because he was ordained in 2007 and is pastor of Sunbeam Baptist Church.

“I went into the ministry after 9/11,” he said. “It all had a lot to do with that.”

Hoyle’s son, Michael Green, and a group of about 11 local firefighters headed to New York after the attacks that destroyed the World Trade Center.

“At first it was one of those situations you couldn’t comprehend,” Michael Green said of the devastation. “It was almost like being on a movie set, and then it set in just how real it was.”

The group was tasked with removing enough debris and stabilizing a phone company building to allow crews to restore phone service to Wall Street and most of Manhattan.

“We wanted to help out,” said then Franklin Fire Chief Dan Eggleston. “We were just there to assist in any way possible.”

Now chief for the Albemarle County Fire Department near Charlottesville, Va., Eggleston said the scene was overwhelming to all of the senses.

“I couldn’t process what was going on,” he said. “It was too much. That’s why we focused on the task at hand.”

Franklin Fire Capt. Ricky Grizzard said he felt anger when the volunteers saw the devastation first hand.

“There was a lot of anger over someone causing that much hurt and destruction to the American people,” Grizzard said. “Seeing it on TV is one thing, but seeing it with your own eyes is completely different.”

He said the devastation radiated for blocks from the World Trade Center.

“There were buildings from blocks away that looked like they had been in a war zone,” Grizzard said.

Because of the brotherhood among firefighters, one of the hardest things was seeing a crushed fire truck removed from the debris

“I get upset every time we lose firefighters,” he said. “Each time a firefighter passes, it’s a tugging feeling.”

Eggleston said the experience is still hard to process and it is something that will never be forgotten.

“All we can do is help out and try to make this a better country,” Eggleston said. “I think it’s something we’ll never forget.”