‘It’s like it happened yesterday’ – Hoboken firefighter reflects on Sept. 11 anniversary

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The city of Hoboken lost 56 residents in the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. Many of the city’s first responders made their way across the Hudson River to New York City to help in the recovery effort. But many others stayed back in Hoboken to provide assistance to any victims who were coming to New Jersey.

“It’s like it happened yesterday, etched in stone,” says Tommy Molta, a firefighter and president of the Hoboken Volunteer Ambulance Corps. “We heard a roar and looked up and we saw the second plane hit the other building. And that was when it was like, ‘OK, it’s not an accident. We're under attack.’”

Molta says that he was walking into Hoboken City Hall when the first plane hit the World Trade Center 18 years ago. He says that minutes later he and other first responders began to set up a triage area. He says that they did something similar in 1993 when a bomb went off at the site.

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“We were told to anticipate casualties by ferry,” he says. “And as the ferries started coming in, they were coming in two and three at a time – 500-600 people at a clip.”

Molta says that there were two kinds of injuries to attend to that day – physical injury and emotional trauma.

“Everyone had telltale dust. You could tell that they were in the area,” he says. “One of the biggest things that stands out in my mind is they all looked alike. They all looked the same. They were all covered in that telltale dust.”

Hoboken first responders treated about 2,200 people. First responders in nearby Jersey City and Weehawken tended to countless others.

Molta says that the victims all had the same sense of shock that he had on that day – a day he says he will never forget.

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