This post was written as part of Project 2996.
Though his first job was working with his father as a paper handler at The Daily News, he did grow up and achieved his dream. By 2001, he had been a firefighter for over 19 years. He was known in the neighborhood for standing Ladder Company 42 in the Bronx smoking a cigar or walking around with his daughter.
On September 8, he suffered injuries fighting a fire in the Bronx. Three days later, he was in the FDNY’s medical office in Brooklyn when the call went out – planes had crashed into the World Trade Center buildings, they were burning, and people were dying. He borrowed a colleague's gear, and rushed to do what he had wanted to do since the age of five – fight fires and rescue people.
His brother Roger knew it. "This is what he wanted to do," said Roger. "You couldn't keep him out of there if you chained him up."
His father agreed. "I guess it was just meant to be," Ernest said. "You can't run away from what was meant to be."
After he died, it took nearly a year to locate his remains. In that time, a mural honoring him was painted in the Bronx. When his funeral was held on September 10, 2002, the fire truck bearing his coffin drove past the artwork. The college where he played football at retired his jersey, number 42 – ironically the same number of his ladder company.
Peter wasn’t just a firefighter, and he wasn’t just a hero – though that’s how he is remembered today. Perhaps more importantly, he was a son, a father, a brother, a brother-in-law, a cousin, an uncle. It’s difficult to remember at times that these were real people who had real lives that were cut short so quickly, and that real people miss them every day – that he wasn’t just one of the thousands that died. That’s why it’s so important to remember each victim individually, and I’m honored to have been chosen to remember Peter Alexander Bielfeld.