Life Goes On for Paramedic, But Pain of 9/11 Endures
Lacey resident Michael Glenn assisted victims of 9/11 attacks at Twin Towers
This story originally ran just prior to the tenth anniversary of 9/11.
The sound of firemen's personal alarms going off is one that Michael Glenn will never forget.
Glenn, a current resident of Lacey Township and a paramedic for the New York City Fire Department on Sept. 11, 2001, voluntarily drove into the city on that tragic day 10 years ago to offer his assistance.
After a long night of work, he was woken up by his wife; by the look on her face, he knew something terrible had happened. Glenn watched news footage of one of the towers burning and immediately began packing a bag.
Glenn, who lived in Brooklyn at the time, got into his Dodge Caravan and onto the Belt Parkway where the right lane was consumed by traffic and the left was open with only emergency vehicles driving through. He floored the accelerator, hitting 100 mph.
“I had my shirt with me but not on me. What I did was when I would get to places where I had to get through, I would hold the shirt out the window,” Glenn said.
When Glenn approached the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel, there were police pointing guns at his vehicle.
“I held my shirt out the window. They went from pointing the guns at me to waving the guns and telling me to go,” he said. “Getting through the tunnel was very strange because behind me and in front of me were emergency vehicles with their sirens going. It was very surreal.”
The city was packed when Glenn got out of the tunnel. He parked his car on the wrong side of West Street.
“I actually took the time to turn around and face the right way,” he said.
Glenn, also a photographer, got out of his car, put his shirt on and took a picture.
'Here On My Own'
He walked into the Marriott, which was one of the World Trade Center buildings, looking for the command post as people ran around in chaos. Glenn ran into his buddy, Ricardo Quinn, a paramedic who died that day.
“I told him to be careful. He was very big on the hot jobs, and this was probably the hottest job ever,” Glenn said.
Glenn made his way across the street to the command center, which was located in the financial center. He saw the familiar faces of those he worked with.
“I even said, ‘Don’t you guys think we’re too close?’ Even though I didn’t think the Towers were going to fall, there was just so much falling from the Towers that I thought we were just a bit close,” he said.
They asked Glenn what unit he was with.
“I said, ‘I’m not with a unit. I don’t have an ambulance. I don’t have a partner. I’m here on my own.’ "
After Glenn returned to his vehicle to get his helmet and jacket, he took another picture. While looking at the photo, he heard what sounded like a jet. The first tower was falling.
“As I was running towards Two World Financial, I pretty much figured I was done but I ran anyway… I pretty much wrote myself off. I figured this was the end,” Glenn said.
As he ran toward shelter, he caught the door of the financial building in his hand, bending his finger back. He ran through the lobby.
“I look back, and I see the wave of stuff rushing up to the door,” he said. “The lobby just imploded.”
Glenn fell, hurting his shoulder, hip, knee and ankle. He met two cops, an EMT and three fire control workers and split up with flashlights and radios, looking for a way out.
They could not find a route and decided to exit the way they came in.
“I didn’t have to open a door to get out,” he said. “I could hear all the firemen’s personal alarms going off, and that’s something I won’t forget. You just hear those things chirping over and over again.”
Glenn came out of the dark cloud and entered the Embassy Suite’s Hotel, where he was assigned to the North Triage.
“We started to get people,” Glenn said. “Anyone who could walk, I said, ‘you can either stay and help or you can get the hell out of here. Those are your options.’
“I was sorting the living and getting them ready to get out of there. And I was also getting the dead. We lined up a section in the lobby for them,” he said.
While Glenn was helping patients, he was told the second tower was about to fall. He helped get the patients ready to go.
While Glenn went back to get equipment, the second tower began to fall. He ran out of the building and into an ambulance.
“After we shut the door, everything went dark. We waited to either be crushed or nothing to happen. Nothing happened,” he said.
As Glenn headed back to his station, police told him that there were gas lines broken and a chance of explosion.
He jumped into an EMS supervisor’s car and they drove up to Chelsea Piers where they created a staging area for patients. Glenn was bleeding with glass in his legs.
After a while at Chelsea Piers, Glenn decided it was time to go. He headed back downtown to his station as the 7 World Trade Center was burning.
“The lieutenant had thought I died so he was happy to see me,” Glenn said.
He was on the scene until 5 a.m. Sept. 12. When he arrived back at his car, the lights had been left on and his car wouldn’t start. After his car was jumped, he began to drive home.
“The police had blocked off all the streets. When they saw my car, it had been damaged. All the windows were gone and it was filled with an inch and a half of silt,” Glenn said. “As I was going down the road, once I was going over 30 mph, I became my own dust cloud.”
Whenever Glenn reached a blockade, police would just look at his car in remorse and let him through.
Glenn was at the scene off and on for the next five months.
“It was a combination of having too much time to think. You wanted to accomplish something but I knew that everybody that I had cared about was gone,” Glenn said. “I had said that morning, ‘We’re going to lose friends today.’ And we did. I lost a lot of people.”
Glenn lost more than a dozen friends that day.
To view a photo gallery of images Glenn took on 9/11, click here .
A Decade Later
Now, 10 years later, Glenn is able to share his story.
“I’ve avoided it for 10 years,” he said.
Glenn, now a lieutenant, will be spending Sept. 11 at home but he wishes he was able to visit where the towers once stood.
“Even though I’ve avoided it for 10 years, I figured this year, I would go down to Ground Zero,” he said.
Unfortunately, the 9/11 ceremony at Ground Zero is limited to the families of victims and politicians, he said.
“I can understand the families but I could care less about the politicians,” Glenn said.
It is important to properly honor the events that took place that day, he said.
“Here we are 10 years later. There are people who remember all the time… there are people who have already moved on, which I know you need to do. But they’ve moved on in a way that doesn’t honor the event,” Glenn said. “I think in 15 to 20 years, it’s just going to be a memory. It’s going to be another excuse to have a sale or barbecue.”
Glenn’s son, who was born eight months later, is one reminder.
“You look at your own son and every once in a while you’re reminded that if it had gone the wrong way that day, you would have never seen him. And we’ve had two more since,” Glenn said.
If Glenn could take away anything in the aftermath of 9/11 it would be that life is unpredictable, he said.
“There are some things that can’t be planned for. They’re too big. You just have to do the best you can, and that’s all anybody can ask. 'Cause who the heck can plan for that?”