Responding To Tragedy With Service –A 9/11 Retrospective
ECS Mid-Atlantic, LLC Subsidiary President Leo J. Titus was a first responder at the Pentagon on 9/11/01. He’s had time during the 15 years since then to ponder not only the events of that day, but to reflect on the impact his experience as a first responder has had on his own life.
Q. What’s your most vivid memory of that day?
A. “The smoke and the heat. I had been a first responder for exactly one month before 9/11, and while I’d begun training, I hadn’t had my ‘burning building’ training. It was the first time I’d ever stepped into a burning building, no less anything of this magnitude. It was nearly impossible to see anything, the smoke was so thick and dark.
“When you work on a First Responders team, there’s training every month that focuses on different aspects of the work. While the first job is always search and rescue, my specific duties also involved my experience as an engineer. I had to determine as best I could the structural integrity of the areas our team was searching through. I was also looking for any other hazards, such as spaces that had potential trip or fall hazards, places that looked like shoring was needed, or any structures that looked like they could possibly collapse before the team could continue searching safely.”
Q. Have you continued your work as a First Responder?
A. “I remained active with the team for about 10 years. I realized that I no longer had the time necessary to devote to the training, and I feel it’s absolutely necessary to be 100% prepared for these situations, because people are depending on you to do your job.”
Q. How has your experience as a first responder changed your life since that time?
A. “Something I noticed a few weeks after 9/11 was that little issues, that petty day-to-day stuff, really isn’t all that critical. It changed my perspective about what’s important and what’s not.
“The second thing that happened is that I began to get a sense of how much more you can do with your life besides just going to work every day and focusing on being successful. To serve a higher purpose, and to use your education and talents beyond your career goals, has become much more important. I think this experience led to my involvement with STEM education. I don’t do first responder work anymore. Instead, I go into the classroom to teach kindergarteners through college-age classroom students about how cool– and how important– engineering is.”
You can learn more about the Pentagon 9/11, including Leo’s experiences, by watching INSIDE THE PENTAGON, a PBS presentation that premiered September 6, 2016. The full episode can be live streamed through October 5, 2016 by clicking this link.