On that horrific September day in 2001, we lost nearly three thousand in New York City, Arlington, and Shanksville – businessmen and women, security guards, tourists, first responders, and countless others. Of these, 343 were firefighters of the Fire Department of New York (FDNY). Instead of fleeing to safety, these heroes went into the World Trade Center buildings to selflessly save others. Many of them knew they would not make it out alive.
For the twentieth anniversary of the attacks on September 11, 2001, I want to focus on one of those heroic firefighters – George Cain of Ladder 7.
George was born in Massapequa, New York. He had a love for the outdoors, skiing, running, soccer, hockey, serving others, and even studying the American Civil War. George even found a rifle-musket on the side of a New York City street and had a collection of Civil War books.
George joined Battalion 8, Ladder 7 out of Manhattan after spending a few years in Telluride, Colorado. He fostered his love of skiing and carpentry there, but knew his calling was with the FDNY to serve others and to follow in his father’s footsteps. His father had served in the FDNY for over 30 years. It was even said that “life blew hot and cold for George C. Cain, in that he made his living fighting fires, but spent much of his time on cold snowy mountains, skiing.”
On the morning of September 11, 2001, George was on a run with his fellow firemen, just before his shift was over when Flight 11 slammed into the North Tower. He and his team went straight to the World Trade Center complex and entered the Marriot Hotel to help in the evacuation. When the South Tower collapsed, he and many of his fellow firemen were killed inside the Marriot. Like so many others that day, George died saving others.
George’s remains were not found until early that next year. Still, to this day, 40% of those who perished that day have not been found. His mother Rosemary has been a fierce advocate for remembering what happened that day – and to make sure the thousands killed that day receive a proper burial.
George’s story has always resonated with me. His selflessness and a love for the Civil War is one of many reasons why I wanted to share his story with Emerging Civil War. We must never forget.