‘I worked as fireman on 9/11 – we knew terror attack was coming’

A New York City firefighter who was part of the heartbreaking search and rescue effort on 9/11 said he knew an attack was going to come.

Niels Jorgensen was with the FDNY for 22 years and, as luck would have it, was on his day off on Tuesday, September 11, 2001.

But like every single one of his colleagues he rushed to Ground Zero the moment he heard about the unfolding tragedy.

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Niels told the Soft White Underbelly channel that there had long been a suspicion among FDNY firefighters that the disaster was coming.

“We were waiting for it,” he explained. “In the late Nineties there was an FDNY training manual with a sketch of the Twin Towers, and it had a target on one of the towers, and it said ‘Not a matter of IF, but a matter of WHEN. Be Ready. Be trained’.

“Did they know this was coming? Us guys that were there in 93 [for the February 26 World Trade Centre bomb attack] we kind of always had this in the back of our mind… that they’re not going to give this up.

"They’re going to come and get us.”

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Dozens of his friends died that day. He recalled, in particular, seeing Father Mychal Judge praying at the base of the towers as the rescue effort went on around him.

The well-loved NYFD chaplain known as “Father Mike” was later classified as Victim 0001 – the first official casualty of 9/11.

“Father Judge raced in there to pray, as the chaos of the towers was going on,” Niels continued.

“There’s a video of him in a famous documentary: he’s in there and he’s just praying to God for everyone to be OK.”

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But “Father Mike” ended up losing his life that day, along with some 2,976 others. “He ended up, from the debris coming down around him, having a heart attack,” Niels added.

“And as they carried him out, later on, he was actually hit with more débris. They think he died of a heart attack as that debris crashed next to him

“He died tending to his flock, which was the FDNY”.

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Niels said his dad, who had previously worked on the Staten Island Ferry, was called out to help with the shipment of bodies from Ground Zero.

He added: “The were assuming they’d be bringing out hundreds and hundreds of bodies, but it never happened because there were no bodies to pull out…

“Eventually there were some bodies that were intact, that were found after hours and days and weeks of digging, but half of the 2,977 souls that were lost have never been identified.

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“They were… not fully intact.”

There were only around 200 bodies retrieved from the wreckage in one piece. “It’s still haunting for those families,” he said.

One of those bodies was his close friend and colleague John, whose wife was pregnant at the time of his death.

John was only recovered on Christmas Eve, after months of heartbreaking toil for Niels and his colleagues who were excavating the site.

He said they could hear the muffled sound of other firefighters’ personal alarms beeping beneath the rubble as they dug in the forlorn hope of singing a survivor.

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While Niels and his colleagues were working it was “like a war movie” he said, with fighter jets making constant low passes over the city in anticipation of follow-up attacks.

Mercifully, those attacks never came..

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