McKEESPORT (KDKA) — History classes in local high schools have varying degrees of interest, but one particular history class in McKeesport may have more impact than any textbook.
“This most importantly is the debris that came off our turnout gear – that’s our firefighter protective gear – when we got back to McKeesport,” said Jimmy Young, a McKeesport firefighter. “When I dropped my gear next to the truck at Renzie Park, I saw this big white cloud come out from under it.”
Young and his partner firefighter, Chris Cerci, got that debris from the day they drove overnight to New York hoping to help out their brother firefighters after the Sept. 11 attacks.
They climbed through that debris to help find bodies and survivors.
Ten years later, they showed the debris they saved with students at McKeesport High School who were in elementary school at the time. It got the students attention.
“That’s what we came out to when we stepped out. That’s the first things that we saw. Those were ambulances just flipped over,” described Young. “The top where these three beams are, these sections of beams, that’s not the side of the building, that’s actually the building that fell and impaled into the ground.”
Now, there is new concern about the health of those who worked around Ground Zero.
“I feel blessed cause there are a lot of guys to this day that have passed away from cancer that they believe was linked to the rescue site,” said Cerci. “Fortunately, I’m one that hasn’t had that concern.”
The lesson the firefighters taught – particularly on the week of the 10th anniversary – was a revelation to some students.
“I honestly had never seen pictures of any of that and it was really kind of shocking to see what it had looked like afterwards,” said Katie Ross, a senior.
Young and Cerci hope that what they taught this generation at the 10th anniversary will be passed on to generations to come.