400 South Collier Blvd , Marco
While acknowledging that the Sept. 11 horror seven years ago was characterized by unbelievable bravery on the part of New York firefighters, the division commander on that day maintains that the lack of horizontal communication caused many unnecessary deaths.
The commander, Peter Hayden, was a guest of the Marco Island Fire Rescue Foundation at a well-attended Sept. 10 luncheon at the Marco Island Marriott Resort.
He said after the first tower was hit, he knew in his heart it was going to be a black day for his men.
Repeatedly using the term “that day,” Hayden outlined the tragedy from an operations point of view, at the outset acknowledging that fighting the fires in the two buildings would have been impossible.
Instead, he said, the emphasis shifted to search and rescue.
“(After the south tower was hit) the sprinkler system was destroyed, the (99) elevators were out of order and we knew it was beyond our capabilities to extinguish the fire,” Hayden said.
“We wanted to get as many people out of there as we could. We anticipated a collapse, but we thought we had more time.”
Which is when, he said, that the lack of official communication played yet another fateful hand.
“There was a police aviation helicopter circling the upper level floors. They realized the buildings were going to collapse, and radioed that information down to the police dispatcher who got it out, but not to firefighters,” Hayden said.
“This was not something intentional,” he emphasized, but nevertheless constituted a “lack of critical information sharing.”
That scenario, he said, was exacerbated tremendously when the second tower was hit.
Hayden eventually was a prime contributor to the McKinsey Report, which contained recommendations to increase department preparedness for future terrorist incidents and complex, large-scale incidents.
The largely somber gathering kicked off on a celebratory note, however, as Capt. Tom Bogan was named Marco Island Firefighter of the Year.