It has been 20 years since the devastating 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.
Although two decades have passed, people across the country continue to keep their promise—to never forget that day and its victims.
The September 11, 2001, attacks left 2,977 people dead and over 6,000 injured, including firefighters and first responders who risked their safety to protect others.
Among these heroic citizens is a familiar face in movies and television: Hollywood actor Steve Buscemi.
Before he became a household name, Buscemi used to work as an FDNY firefighter in Manhattan, New York City. At 18 years old, he took the FDNY civil service test in 1976.
He then went on to serve on Engine Company 55 in Little Italy for four years, from 1980 to 1984. Buscemi later left the fire service to become an actor, writer, and director.
He was already well into his career when 9/11 took place in 2001, but Buscemi knew he just couldn’t watch everything unfold sitting down. So, he went back to his roots.
The following day, he returned to Engine 55 and worked 12-hour shifts every day for several days to help his former colleagues search for survivors at Ground Zero. The team dug through the remains of the twin towers, searching for signs of life and helping retrieve those who had lost theirs.
Buscemi didn’t go there for fanfare; he went there to serve his countrymen. The actor didn’t tell anyone about his involvement in the rescue efforts. There were also very few photographs and no interviews because he declined them all.
“It was a privilege to be able to do it. It was great to connect with the firehouse I used to work with and with some of the guys I worked alongside,” he said at the time.
Buscemi admitted that being there somehow helped him deal with the devastating event.
“And it was enormously helpful for me because while I was working, I didn’t really think about it as much, feel it as much,” he said.
The character actor’s selfless deed was only made known to the public a few years later, when Jonathan Lusk, a fire captain in Fresno, California, shared his story through a post on the Brotherhood of Fire Facebook page.
“Do you recognize this man? Do you know his name? Lots of people know he’s an actor, and that his name is Steve Buscemi. What very few people realize is that he was once one of New York’s Bravest,” Lusk wrote.
Buscemi’s service didn’t end there. In 2003, he gave a speech at a union rally supporting higher wages for firefighters and to stop fire houses from closing. There, he got arrested along with other firefighters.
In 2012, he showed up in Breezy Point, New York, to help with clean-up efforts after the mass destruction left by Super Storm Sandy.
“Once a brother, always a brother! Just so we’re clear… this guy is a Badass !!! Tip of the helmet Brother Steve!” Lusk concluded his post.
In addition to assisting his firefighting brothers on the ground in times of tragedy, Buscemi also produced a documentary for HBO called “A Good Job: Stories of the FDNY” in 2014, which showed what it was like to work as a firefighter.
Today, the 63-year-old Buscemi works with Friends of Firefighters, a group providing mental health services to firefighters and their families for free.
Thank you, Steve Buscemi, for your service! Your selfless actions and courage will never be forgotten.
You can watch his 2014 interview with CBS News where he talked about his career as a firefighter in the video below.
Please share this story to honor all the brave firefighters and first responders who put their lives on the line 20 years ago—and those who are still doing so today.