Olsen reflects on being first responder on 9/11
ROCK HALL — After the two towers fell Sept. 11, 2001, Dave Olsen, a lifelong member of the Rock Hall Volunteer Fire Company and a member of the Baltimore City Fire Department, went to New York City to help search for sur vivors.
Olsen recounted his experiences in the aftermath of the terrorist attack during the Town of Rock Hall’s annual Remembering 9/11 ceremony held on Main Street Tuesday, Sept. 11.
Olsen was working as a fireman in Baltimore when the attack happened.
“We were all sitting around the kitchen table having breakfast at the firehouse talking and trying to solve the world’s problems,” Olsen said.
He said the firemen were on standby until they were called to New York City. When he found out he was headed to Ground Zero, he said he had enough time to grab his gear, call his mom and friends Andrea and Timmy Edwards.
“When I arrived in New York, I was lost for words and could not believe what I was seeing and still had not gotten to Ground Zero,” Olsen said.
He said he was separated from his coworkers in Baltimore. Instead he was paired with firemen from New York’s fire department. Many of the firemen he worked with, he said, would later find out they
had lost family members in the attack.
He said on his way to Ground Zero, the streets were lined with people praying for the firemen and giving them food, water or even clean socks. One of the people he encountered in particular, a young girl named Emily, he will never forget.
“She was standing there with a picture in her hand. She looked at me and showed it to me and asked if I could please find her daddy and bring him home to her,” Olsen said.
He said during his time in New York City, he never found the girl’s father.
Once the team made it to Ground Zero, they spent the
first night digging through the rubble.
“No one took breaks in a hope of finding someone alive,” Olsen said.
He said the firemen searched throughout the night, but had little luck in finding people.
“They had also brought in dogs to help us search for loved ones,” Olsen said. “But like everyone else, the dogs were getting depressed by not finding live people, so we would hide and let them find us to bring them back around.”
He said when the firemen needed breaks or rest, they would sleep in vacant buildings or simply on the ground where they were searching.
Olsen said the task eventually took a toll on him and he called Andrea and Timmy Edwards asking them to come bring him back to Rock Hall.
“We talked for a couple hours and they said, ‘Unfortunately, no you must stay there. God sent you there for a reason,’” Olsen said.
He said he did meet some “great people from all over the world and made a lot of close friends” who helped him.
“As time went on, the smell there became worse from the bodies starting to decay,” Olsen said.
One day, he said, his team recovered the body of his friend’s brother.
“As we wrapped him in a flag and carried him out of the pit, I thought to myself, ‘How do you carry your brother out here and go on? How empty he must feel inside,’” Olsen said.
Olsen said he often questioned how something like the terrorist attacks on 9/11 could happen and why they happened.
However, he said he noticed the United States changed after the attacks and people were kinder to each other.
“Not long after I left Ground Zero, on my way home, I noticed how we all had come together as a nation,” Olsen said.
He said he thinks 9/11 happened to bring the nation closer together and “to make us see what we really have.”
He said on Sept. 11, 2001, many people left their homes for work or school without telling their family members they love them.
“Then tragedy happened and 343 first responders lost their lives and close to 3,000 civilians,” Olsen said.
“My lesson from my time at Ground Zero — and it took me many years to figure this out — is that we all need to go back to a caring and forgiving nation we were when this tragedy happened,” he said.
Dave Olsen, a lifelong member of the Rock Hall Volunteer Fire Company and a member of the Baltimore City Fire Department, speaks about his memories from working as a firefighter at Ground Zero. Olsen spoke during Rock Hall’s annual Remembering 9/11 ceremony held Sept. 11 on Main Street.
Dave Simmons sings a song he wrote titled “He’s With Me Now” during Rock Hall’s annual Remembering 9/11 ceremony. Simmons said he wrote the piece in response to the terrorist attack that occurred Sept. 11, 2001.