9/11 firefighters battling Tri-county blaze

September 11, 2011 9:03:15 PM PDT
Two men who were in Washington DC helping on 9/11 are now in Texas helping with the wildfires.

They are both with the U.S. Forest Service, but are based out of California.

On the anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks Sunday -- even in the midst of what's happening on the front lines of wildfires -- they remembered.

Thirty minutes after the second plane hit the World Trade Center, Rocky Opliger and Frank Mosbacher got a phone call. They found out they were headed to the smoldering Pentagon.

Even with a military F-16 escort, it would take them a day to get there.

"Seeing the smoke and the damage to the Pentagon, for us, itself was incredibly emotional," Oplinger said.

As members of the National Incident Management Team, Opliger and Mosbacher are dispatched with others across the country to help organize during disasters, like the current Tri-county wildfire north of Houston.

Every incident is treated with the same urgency, but this one struck a different chord.

"There was a group of people who were going and doing the really difficult job of going in and recovering bodies," Mosbacher said.

If you're asking why these two were working alongside the FBI and CIA, it's a good question. Apparently, then-Vice President Dick Cheney wanted to know, too.

"He stopped and looked at me and said, 'Forest Service? What's the Forest Service doing here?' Mosbacher said. "And then I explained about the incident management and how we can bring special skills and organization, and we did. Ahe said, 'Thank you.'"

Ten years later, these two are serving again alongside hundreds of firefighters with heavy hearts not only for their community, but for their brothers and sisters who are gone.

Both men are grateful for the unity on that day, and also for the unity in the Tri-county community.


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