By Carol Comegno Courier-Post
Martin Ford was the captain of New York Fire Department Ladder Company 131 in Brooklyn when he got a call at his home on September 11.
The resident of Staten Island was off-duty from the firehouse his unit shared with Engine Company 279.
His colleagues arrived at the World Trade Center before him.
By the time Ford got there, both towers had collapsed, taking five of Engine 279’s men with them.
For days, Ford was among those who searched the pile of rubble at ground zero, but the men’s bodies were never found.
Ford drove to Haddonfield Thursday to speak at the dedication of the 9/11 Memorial erected outside the borough’s Fire Co. No. 1 on Haddon Avenue.
“It’s an honor to come to dedicate this piece of steel in the memory of everybody that was lost,” Ford said. “It’s 12 years later, and it is nice to see the memory is being kept alive.”
He called the rescue help from New Jersey firefighters and other first responders “tremendous.”
Now a New York City Fire Department battalion chief of 150 firefighters in Brooklyn, the 57-year-old Ford can never forget the scene on 9/11.
“It didn’t seem real, but it obviously was,” he said. “I was overwhelmed and lost many friends.”
Ford said his engine company colleagues were inside the South Tower when it suddenly collapsed.
“We really don’t know exactly where they were. We found the truck, which was hit by debris.”
Ford’s ladder company members were in the lobby of the adjacent Marriott, out of the path of falling debris.
“Hearing from one who witnessed this devastation firsthand gives more meaning to a memorial like ours,” said Butch Brees, president of Haddonfield Fire Company.
The 9/11 steel plate on the memorial outside the fire station is debris from the North Tower. Individuals and companies donated time to create a base, weld, position and light the twisted 30-by-18-inch steel plate, including Haddonfield sculptor John Giannotti and Joseph Rodi Collision Center of Cherry Hill.
The firehouse bell rang three times Thursday and the firemen’s prayer was recited at the nighttime ceremony.
“As small as it is, it will be a constant reminder of an unspeakable act of terrorism and of all those lost,” Brees said of the memorial.