Steve Buscemi Reflects on His Time as a Volunteer Firefighter Post-9/11
By Liz Calvario
Andrew Lipovsky/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images
Steve Buscemi is reflecting on 9/11 ahead of the 20th anniversary of the tragic event.
The Golden Globe and Emmy winner wrote an op-ed for Time, reflecting on his time volunteering as a firefighter after the terrorist attack. The 63-year-old star begins by sharing how before he became an actor, he was a fireman at Engine 55 in Lower Manhattan. After deciding to pursue his acting career, he "took a leave of absence, figuring I’d be back."
"Seventeen years later, I was. One of the strongest sensations that flooded over me on Sept. 11, 2001, was that feeling of connection," Buscemi writes. "The next morning, I grabbed my old gear, got a lift to the site and found a place on a bucket brigade."
The actor recalls the rubble coming down, seeing "disturbing" scenes, his face mask clogged with debris and somebody saying, "This is probably going to kill us in 20 years."
"Well, it didn’t take 20 years. Debilitating chronic conditions surfaced before the pile was even cleared. Today more people are thought to have died from toxic exposure at the 9/11 site than died that day," he shares, explaining the ongoing health effects from that day, before detailing how he felt.
"It actually felt good to be there. I was on the site for less than a week, but it wasn’t until I got home that the magnitude of it all caught up with me," he shares. "I was already seeing a therapist, and though it was almost impossible to process the enormity of what had happened, just having someone with whom to sit with all the feelings was a consolation. It’s not something first responders usually get."
Buscemi goes on to share how difficult it was for many firemen and "for people whose primary identity is as a protector" to cope after 9/11, and how New Yorker Nancy Carbone started Friends of Firefighters, an organization that provides free mental-health counseling to the active and the retired and their families.
"'Never forget,' everyone said. Some people have no choice. What’s surprising is who has to be reminded," the actor expresses, adding that shortly after the attack, "Congress created a Victim Compensation Fund to help first responders cope with the aftermath."
"Never forget, because people are still struggling. People are still dying," he concludes his essay.