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First FDNY Chief To Respond On 9/11 Retiring

July 11, 2018 - 6:11 pm

NEW YORK (WCBS 880) -- It’s the end of an era as the first FDNY chief to respond during the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 is retiring.

WCBS 880’s Mike Smeltz had a look back Wednesday at Joe Pfeifer’s time with the FDNY.

Pfeifer was a 25 year old from Queens when he joined the FDNY in 1981.

He worked his way up the ladder, impressing fellow firefighters with his leadership skills and his intellect.

On 9/11, Pfeifer was actually being followed by a French documentary crew, checking out a gas leak only a few blocks from the World Trade Center, when he and the team heard the whooshing sound of the plane overhead.

They looked over to see it explode into the North Tower.

Pfeifer was the first FDNY chief through the doors of the tower, setting up a command post almost immediately – a crucial moment that likely saved hundreds of lives.

In a past talk with the University of Pennsylvania, Pfeifer remembered the moment, at 10:28 a.m., when the North Tower collapsed.

“This beautiful summer morning that was full of sunshine turned completely black, where you couldn’t see the hand in front of your face,” he said.

Pfeifer’s brother, Kevin, was among the hundreds of FDNY members killed on 9/11. Pfeifer continued with the department, eventually becoming an assistant chief – leading the department’s counter-terrorism and disaster preparedness.

His historic 37-year career as part of New York’s bravest now comes to an end.