Darlington Fire Department chaplain recalls responding to Pentagon during Sept. 11 terror attack

Published: Sep. 7, 2021 at 7:57 PM EDT
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DARLINGTON, S.C. (WMBF) - A Pee Dee man saw the devastation of the September 11th terror attacks firsthand, and now he’s using his experience to comfort first responders in the community.

Darlington Fire Department Chaplain Frank Stoda was working for Virginia Task Force 1 on Sep. 11, 2001.

Stoda was headed on vacation when he was notified two planes had struck the World Trade Center. He was told his task force would deploy to New York City immediately.

“About 10 a.m. or so I got another call and was told we weren’t going to New York. The Pentagon has been hit,” Stoda said.

Stoda and his task force spent the next 14 days shoring up the walls of the collapsing structure as jet fuel sparked fires around them. They made their way through the building searching for signs of life.

“You didn’t walk you crawled, because most of the area was covered in four, five, or six feet of rubble,” Stoda said.

Stoda said they worked tirelessly removing debris and victims from the rubble. He said he didn’t have time to think about what happened until weeks later.

“Fire chaplains and CISM come into play and help you put that into a filing cabinet in a drawer in a cabinet and help you close that drawer and continue on with your life,” Stoda said.

Stoda said his task force’s family support team helped him and others get through the crisis.

After he retired, Stoda became the Darlington Fire Department Chaplain so he could use his experience to help firefighters in his own community.

“It’s my turn to sit down and have them tell me about their problems and give them my ear,” Stoda said.

Stoda asks people to not only remember 9/11 on the 20th anniversary. He wants people to reflect on the days following the attacks.

“That day brought the people of the United States closer than they had been in a long long time,” Stoda said. “We need to think about that and that closeness to bring the United States back together again.”

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