Retired Bay Area firefighter recalls traveling to New York to help in 9/11 aftermath

Preparations for the 20th anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks are underway.

One firefighter is sharing his story 20 years after he traveled to New York City to help in the aftermath.

Frank Fraone worked fire station #1, the headquarters for the Menlo Park Fire Department.

He described what it was like working in New York City for 18 days to help families find their loved ones. .

"This helmet I wore during 911 during the whole operations there," Fraone says as he points to the gear he wore when he led the night time search and rescue operation that turned into a recovery mission at the site of the World Trade Center after the terrorist attacks.

He was division chief for the Menlo Park Fire Department.

"To know there were people out there standing and watching, hoping that we'd find a person alive, their loved one, their family. That was difficult," Fraone says, "It never fades. I think about it all the time."

The enormity of the experience, he says, was overwhelming, a life-changing experience.  

"16 hours a day, standing in the heat. The dust and the fumes coming in," Fraone says as a result, he's living with COPD, a lung disease.

It's a price he's willing to pay.

Fraone lost two friends in the terrorist attacks, fellow fire firefighters with the New York City Fire Department.

"I'd do it again," Fraone says he cherishes an item he stumbled upon in the piles of dust, "I just happen to kick this one day in the dust. It looks like some sort of paper weight at the World Trade Center that was probably on somebody's desk. There's actually some of the dust that remains."

Memories that will last a lifetime.

He says it's an event that brought the country together and it was a show of resilience.

Fraone says it's a reminder that a terrorist attack could and did happen on American soil.

"I go by the motto it's not how many years in your life. It's how much life in your years. Try to live everyday to the fullest," says Fraone.

He retired from the Menlo Park Fire Deparment six years ago.

Fraone plans to return to New York City to get together with fellow firefighters to pay his respects and honor all those who died during the attacks on this 20th anniversary.