Zephyrhills Free Press

Sept. 11 first responder shares with local firefighters

FDNY EMT shares his stories from that fateful day with PCFR firefighter in Zephyrhills

It was 20 years ago, but the memories of the events of September 11 and the days, weeks and years following will be with FDNY EMT Stephen Spelman forever.

He responded to the World Trade Center the day of the attack and was at ground zero for days on end. It was traumatic as he saw the recovery of remains of his fellow first responders and civilians alike.

He coped with it in his own way.

Spelman, now living in Wesley Chapel, began to share his story just a few years ago. He again shared his stories Saturday, the 20th Anniversary of the attack.

This time, he joined his friends at the Zephyrhills Museum of Military History and firefighters from Pasco County Fire Rescue’ Station 25 in Zephyrhills. Spelman has equipment, historical documents and thank you letters from school children on display at the museum in Zephyrhills.

“For 16 years, I respected all the friends I lost by spending time with my family and trying to have a good day,” Spellman said. “I was always in pain.”

It took a gift of a piece from the worst day of his life to ease his pain. A section of ladder from one of FDNY’s many destroyed aerial trucks arrived at his home. He wanted to find it a new home where all can see as a tribute. A commemorative display has been created and dedicated at the Tampa Premium Outlets.

“It made me feel better about the date and being able to give back,” Spelman said. “It helped me talk to people and to be able to talk to these firefighters in Zephyrhills is great. They have my utmost respect. They are doing the job and I’m retired.”

PCFR Captain John Esposito, driver/paramedic Gary Owen, firefighter/EMT Ryan McLaughlin and firefighter paramedic Danilo Tartabull came to the museum to get a taste of local military history and to meet and hang on to every word from Spelman.

“These guys were in grade school when September 11 happened and to actually be in the presence of him who lived through that hell is like meeting a super hero in real life,” Esposito said. “It was such an impactful event and seeing someone in person and listen to his experiences is nothing short of extraordinary.”

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