Former 9/11 firefighter who made a new life in Wales recalls searching for colleagues in rubble

Ian Lang speaks to the former 9/11 firefighter who now lives in North Wales

A 9/11 firefighter who lost six of his colleagues in the terror attack will pay tribute by flying a flag at half past at the hotel he runs in North Wales.

September 11 2021 will mark twenty years since the world watched in stunned horror as terrorism on a staggering scale killed nearly 3,000 people in New York.

Nelson Haerr, who now lives in Llanrwst, found himself at the centre of the unfolding nightmare which claimed the lives of six of his colleagues at the World Trade Center.

The father-of-two narrowly escaped death - as the colleague he'd made a last minute shift swap with was killed when the south tower collapsed.

Nelson Haerr is paying tribute to his six firefighting colleagues who lost their lives 20 years ago. Credit: ITV Wales

The North Wales hotelier recalled the events that day to ITV Wales: "It stood out because it was a beautiful day. It was a nice September 11th morning. I remember walking out of my apartment, looking up at the blue sky. It was warm and sunny. I distinctly remember thinking 'what a nice day'.

"Then I walked into the laundromat and the guy said 'have you heard the news?' And that's when it started."

He recalls arriving to at the scene-and with colleagues scrambling over the smoking and dangerous ruins to find survivors.

He said: "That day we spent as much time as possible searching through areas, marking that we'd searched it, just trying to find anybody.

"You've only got a certain amount of time - a window of opportunity - so everybody was committed. We knew that if we were in there, that (his colleagues) wouldn't stop working to get us out."

Nelson describes searching through the rubble to find as many people as possible.

After leaving the fire service he moved to North Wales in 2006 where he now runs a hotel in Llanrwst.

But the terrible things he witnessed and those who lost their lives are never far from his thoughts.

"Because I was the new guy, there was no reason for me to alive", Mr Haerr said.

"These guys had stronger relationships with other guys that survived, I should have been the one to go, I was the expendable one.

"I don't look for attention but I feel a commitment to our guys that the way to honour them is to tell the story of 9/11 and speak about these men."

The former firefighter will fly a flag at half mast to pay tribute to his colleagues. Credit: ITV Wales

Mr Haerr still has the fireman's helmet he wore on that day and a photo of himself at the scene taken by a colleague.

He will fly the Welsh flag at half mast outside his hotel, the Meadowsweet Hotel in the Conwy Valley.

A total of 2,973 people were killed - 67 of them British - when passenger jets hijacked by al Qaida terrorists struck the twin towers of the World Trade Centre in New York and the Pentagon outside Washington on September 11, 2001.

A fourth hijacked plane crashed into a field in Pennsylvania.

Nelson Haerr remembers George Cain, Richard Muldowney, who was known as 'Moondog', Lt. Vernon Richard, who was crew leader, Charles 'Chuckie' Mendez, Vincent Princiotta, known as the Vin Man, and Robert Foti.