Retired firefighter reflects on 9/11 attacks

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Events all over West Michigan on Tuesday remembered the lives lost during the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

One of the largest took place outside of the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum in Grand Rapids.

An organizer of the event knows firsthand why teaching the next generation about this tragedy is so important. Ken Chudy is now retired, but back in 2001, he was serving with the Muskegon Fire Department.

Anyone who was alive during the attacks remembers where they were on Sept. 11, 2001. For Chudy, he was at his daughter’s house working on her roof.

“She came out and said that a plane hit the tower, the trade tower and I said the boys are going to be busy, meaning the firefighters were going to be busy because of where it hit,” Chudy said. “Then a little while later, she comes out and says the second tower was hit and I said that was no accident.”

He was the assistant chief with the Muskegon Fire Department and a member of their urban search and rescue team. When their team wasn’t called in to help at the site of the towers, he knew they had to do something.

He and four others decided to attend the funerals for their fellow firefighters in New York City.

Chudy describes the experience as humbling.

They arrived in New York in mid-October while firefighters were still working to put out flames.

“Fires were still burning, smoke was in the air and the guys were trying to dig out looking for bodies,” said Chudy. “It was an incredible time and something I will never forget.”

He hopes future generations will also remember.

“If you think about it, in the last 17 years there’s probably 70 to 100 million new people in the United States that didn’t exist before 9/11 and now … the only way we can teach them is to relive and retell the story of how guys you didn’t know sacrificed themselves so that you can be safe,” he said.

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