Former Phoenix Fire Department chief reflects on 9/11 attacks 20 years later

Sep 10, 2021, 4:45 AM

PHOENIX — Just days after the attacks that brought down both towers of the World Trade Center in New York, then-Phoenix Fire Department Assistant Chief Bob Khan was at the site.

“That debris pile was about five stories high. It was very surreal,” Khan said.

Khan and others with him got to the site during the night and were there for a couple of days.

The brother of former New York City Fire Department Commissioner Tom Von Essen drove Khan’s group to the pile of rubble.

“Your eyes see it but it’s hard to grasp. You just couldn’t believe the damage,” Khan said. “When you looked down into that debris field it was like looking into the Grand Canyon. The abyss really. Indescribable. Devastating.”

Khan has huge admiration for the FDNY firefighters who were at the site knowing that 343 of their fellow firefighters had been lost.

“They were great, polite, professional and respectful but they were angry,” Khan said. “They felt that they had been attacked with actual family members in the firefighting service that had been murdered by this act of terrorism.

“You had a lot of family members with brothers and dads missing and they were looking for survivors they were related to.”

Khan calls the attacks the Pearl Harbor of our generation.

“I hope that we never see it again,” Khan said. “I think we’ve been vigilant as a country and I hope that continues and we don’t get caught like that again.”

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Former Phoenix Fire Department chief reflects on 9/11 attacks 20 years later