A firefighter that experienced the horrors of September 11th first hand is speaking in Lubbock Tuesday night. Captain Al Fuentes will share his story at the annual scholarship benefit gala for Wayland Baptist Universities Lubbock Campus.
The event will honor first responders and will benefit their First Responders Endowment. The endowment is aimed to assist firefighters, police and EMS that are interested in furthering their education.
Fuentes believes programs like this are important and that's why he's traveled from New York to Texas to speak at Tuesday's event.
"It's a brotherhood. I could be in Texas and I'm from New York, but it's a brotherhood of first responders," Fuentes said.
Fuentes learned the true meaning of that brotherhood the morning on September 11th. He came into his office around seven as he did a daily. He had a clear view of lower Manhattan and the towers from his window across the East River. Little did he know that in just a couple of hours his life would be changed forever.
"I walked over to the window and I was stunned to see the amount of fire and the gaping hole," Fuentes said.
Being a firefighter, Fuentes immediately sprung into action. He assembled his unit and boarded a boat to cross the river and get to Ground Zero as soon as possible. However, during the trip he got the first taste of the horror that lie ahead of him when he saw the second plane hit the towers.
"I couldn't believe how low he was flying and I'm thinking he must be looking at what we're looking at, this massive scale disaster. Sure enough, he made a 180 degree turn and flew lower and even at that point I wasn't ready for what was going to happen. He flew right past my boat and I could hear the engines roaring as he picked up speed and then he started banking his wings and he crashed into the south tower," Fuentes said.
Fuentes went on to depict the hours that proceeded as he arrived at Ground Zero with one goal. He was determined to help the helpless and save lives no matter what the cost.
"I was just thinking about how can I get up there and help these poor innocent civilians, many of them jumping to their deaths," Fuentes said.
Fuentes had no idea that he would soon become one of the people that needed to be saved.
"The north tower came down and buried me for a couple of hours and thank God, he didn't want me at the time," Fuentes said.
He was able to radio his unit and they eventually located Fuentes under the rubble. The road to recovery was long and hard, but Fuentes says speaking at events like this helps him heal.
"It's the way I cope, by telling other people's stories. I'm doing it because of Wayland, I'm doing it because of first responders, but it's still very hard," Fuentes said.
Tickets for the gala are unfortunately sold out; however, if you are interested in donating to the First Responders Endowment you can contact Wayland Baptist at (806) 785-9285
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