DARLINGTON, SC (WMBF) – A man Pee Dee saw first-hand the devastation of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and now he’s using his experience to comfort first responders in the community.
Darlington Fire Department chaplain Frank Stoda worked for Virginia Task Force 1 on September 11, 2001.
Stoda was on vacation when he was told two planes had struck the World Trade Center. He was told his task force would deploy to New York immediately.
“Around 10 am I got another call and was told we weren’t going to New York. The Pentagon has been hit, ”Stoda said.
Stoda and his task force spent the next 14 days propping up the walls of the collapsing structure as kerosene started fires around them. They made their way through the building looking for signs of life.
“You didn’t walk, you crawled, because most of the area was covered with four, five or six feet of rubble,” Stoda said.
Stoda said they were working tirelessly to remove debris and casualties from the rubble. He said he didn’t have time to think about what happened until weeks later.
“The fire chaplains and CISM come in and help you put this in a filing cabinet in a drawer of a cabinet and help you close that drawer and get on with your life,” Stoda said.
Stoda said the family support team in his task force helped him and others through the crisis.
After his retirement, Stoda became the chaplain of the Darlington Fire Department so he could use his experience to help firefighters in his own community.
“It’s my turn to sit down and ask them to talk to me about their problems and listen to them,” Stoda said.
Stoda asks people not to just remember 9/11 on the 20th anniversary. He wants people to think about the days after the attacks.
“That day brought the people of the United States closer than it had been in a very long time,” Stoda said. “We need to think about that and that closeness to bring the United States together again. “
Copyright 2021 WMBF. All rights reserved.