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'Honor those who gave their all': Former Milwaukee firefighter shares his account at Ground Zero story for the first time

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Posted at 6:01 AM, Sep 10, 2021

MILWAUKEE -- Just about everyone remembers where they were when the September 11, 2001 attacks took place.

For the first time, a former Milwaukee assistant fire chief is speaking about what he witnessed at Ground Zero, just days after the attacks.

Paul Conway, former assistant fire chief for the City of Milwaukee has never spoken about his time at Ground Zero, publicly.

We spoke to him at the War Memorial in Milwaukee, in front of a preserved piece of the Twin Towers taken down on by two hijacked commercial airplanes.

"I'm here today to honor those who gave their all," said Conway.

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Even 20 years later, he says the memories do not fade, "The vision never fades, the smells never fade."

Conway showed us his badge from New York City's Office of Emergency Management, where he worked with fellow firefighter Tim Brown, who survived the towers collapse.

That call was 'Brother I need you and I need you now,'" said Conway, "and I said, 'I'm on my way.'"

Though he had been a firefighter for nearly 20 years at that point, the then-lieutenant says he could never prepare for what he saw next, "War. That's what I saw. 40 blocks. if you could imagine, 40 blocks of destruction. There was a line of fire trucks all smashed all destroyed and crushed."

Soon, we would all learn, 343 firefighters were killed that day.

From September 13 through Mid-November 2001, Conway worked on and off at Ground Zero, helping with logistics.

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His biggest focus is for all of us to remember the New York City firefighters who took an oath and paid the ultimate sacrifice. This includes Michael Lynch, who save people stuck in an elevator, "The elevator shaft well was full of jet fuel burning and those people were burning alive, so Mike rescued those people from that elevator and was murdered doing that."

And Captain Patrick Brown, who grabbed an office phone in the Twin Towers, when his radio transmission stopped working.

"[He] said this is Captain Brown 3 Truck were on the 35th floor. We have a lot of injured people coming down. Let the chief know were headed up."
That was the last anyone heard from Captain Brown.

Conway believes, these heroes' stories should be echoed for the next 20-plus years.

We ended our interview in the War Memorial, where a 9/11 exhibit is being set up, "It's not just [9/11] its 20 years of all these people that gave their lives for this country, for something they believed in. For something greater than self and it cost them their lives."

Another reason to share with your loved ones both young and old, is that we must not ever forget, "We've been taught forever that when we forget history - history repeats itself."
Along with 343 firefighters killed on 9/11, so were 37 Port Authority police officers and 23 New York City police officers.

In total 2,996 people were killed on September 11, 2001, in New York City, The Pentagon and Flight 93 which crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

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