Emergency personnel, Salisbury community remember 9/11

Published 6:44 pm Tuesday, September 11, 2018

SALISBURY — On Sept. 11, 2001, John Piana was an emergency medical technician and firefighter in New Jersey and was part of his department’s disaster team. He spent 28 days at Ground Zero helping pull people from the wreckage after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York.

Piana, now an EMT with the Granite Quarry Fire Department, has created a gallery of photographs, some from the day of the attacks and others from subsequent days. Piana said he collected the photos to keep the tragedy of that day alive.

He attended a 9/11 memorial ceremony Tuesday morning at the Salisbury Firefighters Memorial to remember and honor those who paid the ultimate sacrifice on 9/11 and since.

Piana and his partner rescued a welder who was trapped in the rubble. Two months later, the welder gave them a piece of metal with a cross affixed to the top. It was part of the beam that he was trapped under.

Salisbury Fire Department Battalion Chief Nick Martin was in college and working as a firefighter in Prince George County, about 90 minutes from Manhattan. He was off duty that day but called in prepared to assist. Martin said his department was not needed because everyone they believed they could help rescue was dead.

He recalled hearing from responders who were at Ground Zero helping rescue people.

The anniversary of Sept. 11, Martin said, is a time to reflect on service, duty and the responsibility we all have to help those in need.

Salisbury Police Chief Jerry Stokes said the image that stays with him to this day is that of Port Authority Police Officer Christopher Amoroso helping rescue a pregnant woman. The officer was pushed beyond his limits but returned to the World Trade Center to rescue more people, Stokes said. The photo is the last time Amoroso was seen alive. He died when the building collapsed.

“This is why I remember Sept. 11 as we are today to honor all of our brother and sister firefighters, police officers whose destiny it was to sacrifice all and perished that day doing their job,” Stokes said.

He said we must remember to pray for those who choose to take up the responsibility of keeping the country free and providing service to others.

“You have our sincerest thanks, our highest admiration and the solemn promise of our collective daily prayers that God would protect you as you selflessly protect us,” Rowan County Commissioner Greg Edds said.

Edds said it’s his prayer that God would give emergency responders good health and that after each call, a safe return to their community and family.

The ceremony also paid tribute to emergency personnel who have died in service to the community. The service was marked by a moment of silence at 9:59 a.m., the time when the South Tower of the World Trade Center collapsed.

The ceremony ended with a memorial wreath being placed at the base of the Firefighters Memorial.

Contact reporter Shavonne Walker at 704-797-4253.