Jim Riches’ story is unbelievable and heartbreaking at the same time. I was interviewing him a couple of weeks ago on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of 09/11. The story appeared in the latest issue of the German GQ-Magazine. In the following you’ll find the translated transcript of Jim’s protocol as well as a video interview with Jim that lately aired on time.com.
Translation of Jim Riches 09/11-protocol as published in the October issue of German GQ-Magazine.
“I was off duty on 9/11 but once I saw the burning towers, I immediately knew my son Jimmy was on-side. We were talking on the phone just the night before. We’ve talked about his upcoming thirtieth birthday party which was scheduled for September 12th.
In a police car with lights flashing we sped from Brooklyn to Manhattan – a privilege which I was entitled as a fire chief back then.
During the drive I stared at the burning north tower and thought:”Jimmy, please get out there!” Once we’ve passed half of the Brooklyn Bridge the first tower collapsed. As a firefighter I immediately knew: my son was in there. But as a father I couldn’t believe it until I saw Jimmy’s Mercedes. With his top down it was parked in front of his firehouse in Downtown Manhattan. The fine dust of the collapsed towers covered the black leather seats of Jimmy’s car like snow. In a trance I’ve fought my way through the chaos and began to dig for injured people with the other rescue teams.
A week later, the search for survivors was stopped officially. Jimmy was not among them. Although I knew he was dead, I wanted to bring him back to our family and to give his mother the chance to say goodbye. Therefore I volunteered to lead the rescue work. My colleges and I worked around the clock. And every damn day I promised my wife again:”Today we’re gonna find Jimmy!”
More than six months after the attacks I could keep my promise. One of the excavators recovered a black-yellow uniform. I was standing only a few steps away. I immediately was looking for the badge number inside the jacket. Once I scratched a layer of mud from the sticker, the number 734 was shown up: Jimmy’s badge number. I had found my son! On March 25th 2002, my three youngest sons and I were carrying our beloved Jimmy from the ruins of the World Trade Center.”