NEW YORK —
On Sept. 11, 2001, Roy led Engine Company 28 to the World Trade Center. Al-Qaida hijackers had steered fuel-laden commercial airliners into the iconic Twin Towers. On a rescue mission, Roy and the Engine 28 crew were inside the lobby of the burning North Tower, which got hit first by American Airlines Flight 11 at 8:46 a.m. The South Tower had already crumbled, just 56 minutes after being struck by United Airlines Flight 175. Sensing the North Tower was about to go, too, Roy guided his cohorts and others out of the shuddering, flaming structure and under a bridge moments before the massive 110-story building imploded, according to oral histories compiled by the New York Times in 2005. Those with Roy survived, but 343 other New York firefighters perished that day.
Duty brought Roy back to the site, day after day, through the following spring, combing the rubble in search of the lost and enduring the constant smoke and fumes.
“My brother took it hard,” Steven Chelsen said of 9/11. “He really had a hard time, after the fact, losing his friends. It was a difficult time for everyone. He spent nine months digging in that pit, in a recovery effort, because they knew then there were no more survivors.
“And then, four years later,” Steven added, “he got diagnosed with multiple myeloma.”
Roy’s battle with that form of cancer ended Jan. 9. Steven began his construction job at the WTC site four days before his brother died.
“Sometimes,” Steven said, “it’s hard for me to come here in the morning.”
‘So much more’ than 9/11
Indelible as they are, some marks left by 9/11 on New York and the people who live, work and visit it aren’t as visible as Steven Chelsen’s tattoo. The financial district itself carries scars, and yet has soldiered on, stronger than before in some ways.