'The little truck that could': Md. fire chief reflects on station's Pentagon response on 9/11
Chief Micky Fyock's 1950s-era Mack Ladder Truck 16 was the only apparatus small enough to get inside the Pentagon
Mary Grace Keller
The Frederick News-Post, Md.
FREDERICK COUNTY, Md. — Micky Fyock had just finished his supervisor shift at the Frederick County 911 center when he got a phone call the night of Sept. 11, 2001.
The Woodsboro Volunteer Fire Company chief answered the call. A dispatcher told him the Pentagon needed Woodsboro's 1950s era Mack Ladder Truck 16 to help contain the fire that started after American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the building.
"I thought somebody was messing with me," Fyock said.
But the need was real, and it was urgent.
Like Woodsboro fire station's engine bay doors, the Pentagon's entrance stood 10 feet tall, and they needed apparatus small enough to get inside. Someone in D.C., Fyock doesn't know who, remembered that Woodsboro had an older, smaller truck that just might fit.
Fyock directed the local 911 center to dispatch the call like they would for any other fire. The first four qualified firefighters to arrive went with Fyock, and they headed for the Pentagon.
The truck only held two people and wouldn't go faster than 55 mph, according to Fyock. The other three firefighters followed in a duty vehicle.
Fyock doesn't remember much about the journey, but he does recall how eerily empty the roads were. He only saw one other vehicle.
When the Woodsboro crew arrived, they had to hand over their cell phones before entering the Pentagon. Their target was the inner courtyard, nestled within the rings of the building.
"We went inside and they told us that because of the jet fuel in the building basically they had decided to not fight fire that night but just to hold it where it is," Fyock recalled.
Authors Patrick Creed and Rick Newman detail the effort in their book, "Firefight: Inside the Battle to Save the Pentagon on 9/11."
Working alongside other fire crews, Truck 16 aimed its 65-foot ladder and hose at the roof, the authors wrote. The truck lacked remote control to operate the hose, so firefighters rigged a pulley system with ropes to move the hose around. Once it was stable, firefighters in pairs took turns directing the water.
Fyock, chief then and still chief now, supervised the group. They were on scene for about 13 hours, he told the News-Post. A three-star general loaned Fyock his cell phone so he could check in with command.
When Fyock found time for breaks, he took in the scenes around him. Exhausted firefighters slept on body bags, and inside the Pentagon, knee deep in water, Fyock came upon a hole where the cockpit came crashing through.
Body parts were scattered around it. He later realized they must have belonged to the terrorists who hijacked the plane.
Eventually, fresh fire crews started to arrive at the Pentagon, along with food trucks. In the midst of the new flurry of activity, Fyock noticed a man in a suit, just standing there staring at the wreckage.
Fyock asked if the man needed anything.
"I was at the dentist," the man told him. "But my fellow workers weren't."
Fyock put his arm around the stranger, and they sat on a bench.
"I just held him for a while," Fyock said.
The man left eventually, but Fyock never got his name.
Twenty years later, Fyock feels like it was yesterday.
"The visions I saw will never leave me," Fyock said. "In my lifetime, I've seen a lot of tragedy."
But he's also seen a lot of good.
"I remember the morning of the 12th we had our ladder up, and it was flowing water, and we put an American flag on the end of the ladder," Fyock said.
As the sun beamed down on the water and the flag waved, a rainbow appeared.
"I said, we're gonna be all right," Fyock said.
Relieved of duty, Fyock and his crew returned to Woodsboro.
After two decades, Fyock is the only member of the 9/11 crew who is still active with the Woodsboro Volunteer Fire Company.
Truck 16 eventually became too old to meet modern needs and was sold to collector and longtime firefighter Kyd Dieterich, who was once fire chief in Hagerstown. Though he retired from career firefighting, he still volunteers on the Board of Directors at the Funkstown station in Washington County.
When Dieterich worked in fire truck sales, he knew Woodsboro planned to sell Truck 16 not long after 9/11. After Woodsboro didn't get any enticing offers, Dieterich made a bid. The company accepted it, and Dieterich moved the truck to storage in Hagerstown.
He's kept it in good condition and rolls it out every now and then for special occasions such as parades.
"It's part of our nation's history. It's something that I think our citizens should be proud of," Dieterich said in an interview.
He believes Truck 16 should stay in the area and, ideally, be on display.
Clarence "Chip" Jewell, president of the Frederick County Fire & Rescue Museum in Emmitsburg, thinks he can help.
Jewell, a retired director of volunteer services at Frederick County and currently assistant chief and president at Libertytown, would love to see the truck displayed at the museum. It's just an idea in its infancy at this point, but it's a hope he has for the future. The museum would need to be expanded to fit the truck.
"It really is an iconic piece of fire apparatus," Jewell said, adding it has become known as "the little truck that could."
When the 9/11 anniversary comes around, Fyock tends to stay at home. At 69 years old, he has 56 years of volunteer fire service under his belt. There have been times in those years he questioned whether he's had enough.
Then he gets another call.
"You get reborn again, because you know you did good, you've helped people," Fyock said. "You know you have a purpose."
(c)2021 The Frederick News-Post (Frederick, Md.)