WEST OCEAN CITY — The horror unleashed that September morning echoes to this day in public speeches, airport security lines, and seemingly endless foreign conflicts. Those same attacks left children without parents, parents without children, and voids in thousands of families- including that of River Run resident Bob Dillon.
Born in New York City, Dillon served the New York City Fire Department for 23 years. He retired in 2000 as Lieutenant, and was assigned to Ladder Company 18 upon retirement. After retiring, Dillon and his wife, Ruby, moved their family to River Run where they still reside today. Despite the move to the Eastern Shore, not a day passes by that Dillon is not seen sporting his FDNY cap.
“Living here may be out of sight, but never out of mind,” he said. For Dillon, that horrific day that brought down what once reigned as the tallest buildings in the world is still surreal.
“I remember it like yesterday- I was out golfing with a group of current FDNY members when my wife called me after the first crash. We all just assumed it was an accident at first. Then she called me again minutes later, screaming as she watched another plane crash into the second tower live on TV,” he said.
Then, after a pro shop employee confirmed Ruby’s news the group of golfers were silenced in disbelief.
“We all felt so helpless,” Dillon said. “We knew our brothers were being called to duty and we knew that there was nothing we could do to help them.”
On day one, Dillon found himself glued to the TV anxious to hear something, but terrified to hear anything. Unable to get through to anyone in NYC, the retired lieutenant sat paralyzed. Finally, a phone call came from a wife of a close friend.
“She informed us that one of our fire trucks had been destroyed and that two of our men were missing,” he said.
The missing pair was later dug out of the rubble; they were alive. Despite the good news, Dillon described the hours and days that followed the terror attacks as nothing short of a nightmare.
“I was beyond sick. A part of me wanted to be there helping; yet, another part of me was so thankful to be retired and alive,” he said with tears dripping down his face.
In all, the terrorist attacks on 9/11 took the lives of over 2,800 people. Of those deaths, 343 were emergency responders. “I lost my brothers,” Dillon wept.
In a society where it is so easy to forget, those affected the most cannot forget or in Dillon’s case “will not.”
“Not a day goes by that this isn’t on my mind,” he explained while revealing his memorial tattoo on his leg. He also has a license plate that reads FDNY 343 in honor of those who gave their lives in service of others.
Along the Ocean City boardwalk on goers can read a brick that Dillon purchased and had inscribed with a verse from Psalms, it reads: “No greater gift can one man give than to lay down his life for his brother.”