On the 20th anniversary of 9/11, former New York Yankee and St. James resident Frank Tepedino recalled his experience during that fateful day.
At the time, Tepedino, who also played for the Atlanta Braves during his sports career, served as a firefighter for the New York Fire Patrol for almost 20 years. It just so happened he was off patrol on the morning of 9/11, residing in his home on Long Island.
His son, who worked for the New York City Fire Department, informed Tepedino of the attacks around 8:45 in the morning.
“At first, I thought a pilot had a heart attack or something and I thought how unusual it was,” Tepedino said. “Everything started to click once the second plane hit.”
Tepedino was called into work immediately after the attacks due to the World Trade Center being a commercial building, which is what the FDNY responds to specifically.
Jumping into his vehicle around noon, he remembered all the roads being closed off making it especially difficult to get near the city. By the time Tepedino made his way to the atrocity at nightfall, he couldn’t believe what his eyes were seeing.
“I remember when they were filming ‘Godzilla’ in the city and seeing all the spotlights,” Tepedino said. “When I got to the World Trade Center it looked just like that, like a movie set. It didn’t look real. There were spotlights everywhere because the power was out.”
Being stationed in Manhattan for 20 years, Tepedino became very acquainted with the FDNY. They were only 15 minutes away from the station and often spent time together at softball games and other functions.
From the FDNY alone, 343 members died from the terrorist attacks on 9/11. Another victim was NYFP firefighter Keith Roma who was only 27 years old. Tepedino said they did not find Roma’s remains until December 2001.
“We were there for a good two, three weeks working 12-hour shifts,” Tepedino said. “Everything was coordinated very specifically considering something like this had never happened before.”
One of the jobs Tepedino had following the aftermath of 9/11 was to sweep the debris and clearing the manhole covers so the scuba team could go under the buildings to look for more survivors.
“As time goes by, things are put on the back burner, but you have to look at the history of what has happened because what we’re trying to do is protect the people who cannot protect themselves,” Tepedino said.