Diane Semmling is a 22 year veteran of the Coast Guard. She refers to herself as a responder, a person involved for assistance, not a person who rescues the living or recovers the deceased. Here is her account of September 11th.
It was the second week of school and Diane was walking her three children to school, with her four year old in the stroller. When she returned, her neighbor had the television on and told her that a plane hit the World Trade Center. At first, she thought it was an accident, until the second plane hit. Immediately, she knew she had to get ready to be stationed in New York. Before she attended her duty, she put her four year old in her truck to pick up her father. As she drove over the Driscoll Bridge, she saw smoke across the New York skyline.
After she picked up her father, she became organized to go on duty. This consists of packing uniforms, fruit, and other necessities. Diane was then stationed at the barracks in Staten Island. She arrived in Staten Island at about 1pm and went on watch. A colleague of hers named Linda Stewart agreed that the country was under attack. Therefore, she met at the unit and packed uniforms, masks, wiping towels, a shovel, and fruit for the responders. She wasn't dispatched to New York City until 7:30pm. At that time, she checked into the barracks, called the fire fighters to see if they needed assistance, and checked the hazmat supplies. She handed out masks and food to the rescue and recovery workers and helped at the Commission Office. Diane also inspected incoming vessels and around the port, completed paper work, and assisted the Atlantic Strike Team.
Diane described the experience as a large security response and a lot of "stuff" was going on. There was a sense of paranoia and a sudden awareness of the country's vulnerability; she stated that even the FBI was stationed in their office in Staten Island. As she kept guard at the Battery Maritime Building, she saw fire fighters come and go across the Staten Island ferry. The area of Ground Zero was covered in one foot of ash; as one walked closer, the ash became wet. Emergency lights illuminated the city at night. There was no looting and the mood was somber and reverential. About 20 stories of fire were still ablaze in the remains of the North Tower. She saw a crushed fire truck, graffiti written in dust, and airplane parts. It seemed that there was nobody to be rescued.
There was one specific thing that Diane appreciated. The Bayonne Fire Department supplied a coffee bar relief truck for the workers on September 11th and 12th. Diane explained, "In the weeks following, I wrote to Chock-Full-of-Nuts regarding this most human and appreciated expression. Chock-Full-Of-Nuts responded by sending a person with 50 cases, or 200 large cans of their brew to the Bayonne Fire Department. Needless to say, the BFD was grateful for this supply."
The Battery Maritime Building, where Diane was stationed was used for comfort and mercy. She did say that a few people lived there, although they were not supposed to. Access to the building was denied. Diane was on duty for twenty-two days, six days a week. She came home every Sunday to see her family.
Many things for Diane had changed. She now marks her life as before 9/11 and after 9/11. She developed a cough which made it hard for her to sing, one of her passions. The military became more stringent in security, which is a good thing according to Diane. She said that she appreciates her children even more. Coming home to take care of them helped her get through those challenging days.