Local fire chiefs remember their work at Ground Zero

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SAN DIEGO — Two San Diego fire chiefs shared details Wednesday of their rescue efforts at Ground Zero 18 years after the Twin Towers fell in New York City.

At the time, John Wood was an Urban Search and Rescue firefighter working alongside fellow firefighter Matt Nilsen. “It was a phone call saying that you are going with Task Force 8,” Wood, now a deputy chief, said.

Six days after the towers fell, both Wood and Nilsen traveled to Ground Zero to assist with efforts to locate survivors in the rubble. “You go into work mode. We don’t let emotions … you have to go into your tunnel vision—’What do I need to do?’ You have a job to do, and it was search and rescue at that point,” Wood said.

Nilsen was working communications at the time. “We had been briefed and we had seen pictures on the news of the scene, but the sheer scope and size was incomprehensible,” said Nilsen, now a battalion chief with the San Diego Fire Department.

Working to methodically clear the debris, the firefighters from San Diego worked alongside the New York Fire Department and departments from all over the United States. Every one of them endured the aftermath of the worst terrorist attack in modern history.

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