Excerpts from the DailyHerald.com:

Nothing could prepare them for the unthinkable. But as they stood by the rubble, a New York City fire chief introduced them to 16 acres of destruction that once was the World Trade Center. The New York chief laid out a few ground rules when the group arrived at ground zero. Only FDNY crews could move the body of one of their own.

“Your company goes and gets you and brings you out,” said Bob Hoff, now Carol Stream’s fire chief and then a district chief in Chicago,  of a point of pride in the fire service. “And that’s what New York did. They carried their own people out.”

A group of 87 firefighters from Chicago and the suburbs volunteered in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. They took 10- to 12-hour shifts at ground zero and tried to sleep on the sidewalk a few blocks away. And yet, despite the emotional toll, they call it an honor, a privilege to help their friends in New York.

Outside the city’s fire academy, they packed trucks and vans with gear, saws, bottles of water. By a stroke of luck, Chicago firefighters had switched into new breathing apparatus. Hoff and his crew brought the older style, the same kind used by a New York department devastated by the loss of lives and equipment in the collapse of the twin towers.

“We’d come back from the site and go to where we were stationed, and there would be nurses there just to clear your eyes out, all the dust in your eyes,” Hoff said.

Hoff also speaks of trying to find the good after a tragedy. When he was 5, his father, a Chicago battalion chief, was killed battling a fire in an apartment building on Valentine’s Day 1962.

“You can have grief, but your life goes on. You’ve got to make something positive out of things,” Hoff said. “I know every one of those guys who were killed were probably thinking that for their families, their wives.

After five days, they headed home to Chicago. Hoff wished they “could have done more.” Schneidwind was “heartbroken” to leave. Both knew the job was far from over.

thanks Dan