Brunswick Co. EMS director reflects on responding to 9/11

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BRUNSWICK COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — Today marks 18 years since the single worst attack on American soil in history: the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center.

Thousands of emergency officials responded to the World Trade Center that day including Brunswick County EMS Director Edward Conrow.

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“The world changed that day,” Conrow said.

In September 2001, Conrow was working as a firefighter for the New Jersey Airport Authority.

“On what was called New Jersey Task Force One,” Conrow said. “It’s an Urban Search and Rescue Task Force.”



Conrow said, on September 11, 2001, his work day started just like any other day until 9:18 that morning.

“I got notified I was activated as part of the New Jersey task force to deploy to the world trade center,” Conrow said.

It was a moment that changed his life forever.

“We didn’t know what was going to happen after that. We didn’t know if we were ever coming home,” Conrow said.

That was a terrifying thought for a dad with a young daughter at home.

“It was kind of scary having a small child, not being able to say you know ‘I’ll see you later bye.’ Usually, every morning before I go to work that’s what we do,” Conrow said.

For ten days, Conrow did not go home did not get to say goodbye.

“We were in search and rescue mode, so we were searching buildings, going into buildings, tunneling into stuff,” Conrow said. “We had a couple of scary situations. Underneath the World Trade Center is a large mall, so there was people in there so we were sent in one mission to go down there and search. You feel things shaking and it’s dark.”

Through all of the dark and scary moments, conrow said he also saw a lot of good.

“A lot of people wanted to help. A lot of people wanted to help you.”

One of those moments has stuck with him for 18 years.

“My dinosaur blanket.”

He said a woman gave it to him in the convention center where he had to sleep.

“There was a convention going on in the complex at the time and they had to evacuate and we were there and a lady gave it to me on September 11th. She said, “You know you’re going to need a blanket. So I used it there whenever I had a chance to sleep.”

When he finally got home, he said he washed it and it became his firehouse blanket. Then, 18 years later, the dinosaur blanket showed up in brunswick county during hurricane Dorian.

“It was my blanket I brought here when I slept here,” Conrow said.

Conrow said every now and then someone will tease him about it until they hear the story of good behind it.

“I think between that day and now everyone was so willing to help each other and give to each other and I think we’re starting to kind of lose that again. Some stranger gave it to me and said here I know you’re going to need it and it kind of stuck with me.”

He is also stuck with a new reality.

“That day changed my life forever. Every time I go to the doctor I have to worry about is something going to come out because I was there,” Conrow said.

Through the good and the bad, Conrow said he does not want anyone to forget that day.

“I want them to remember what happened not just to remember the people that died and the people that made sacrifices that day,” Conrow said. “I want them to kind of look back and remember that first year or two what we were like how we were so willing to help each other. There’s a quote and it always sticks with me and it’s from a country music singer. ‘Where were you when the world stopped turning?'”

Conrow lived in New Jersey up until April of this year when he moved to Brunswick County to take over as director of emergency services. He said, luckily, he has not had any medical issues so far related to the incident.