NEW ORLEANS — Among a sea of rowdy football fans at Champions Square Monday night there was also an American hero, though if you asked retired New York City firefighter Ron Parker, he’d tell he was just doing what he was born to do on Sept. 11, 2001.
It was Parker’s day off. When he arrived, both towers had fallen and he knew it was time to get to work. There would be rescues, but also corpses pulled from the debris where the World Trade Center once stood. Parker would live to tell his story, many of his friends and fellow first responders would not.
“I survived 9/11,” said Parker speaking with WWLTV’s Paul Dudley. “ I lost 45 of my friends, 343 of my brothers.”
Forgetting is not something Parker can do, instead he shares his 9/11 experience with students, who were born prior to 9/11. During his trip to New Orleans, he spoke at New Orleans Maritime and Military Academy and again at Coop Charter.
“I am here for the future of America and tell them about 9/11 and tell them that they matter to me because we all come from hardships,” Parker said.
Parker was at ground zero from Sept. 11, 2001 to Jan. 6, 2002. Today, he is not in good health, but finds some peace in knowing there is the victim compensation fund, which pays out claims for deaths and illnesses related to the attack. The bill grabbed national attention when Jon Stewart blasted Congress for their inability to get it passed. The next day it did.
“I (will) be a recipient of that bill. I am not well,” Parker said. “Jon Stewart is my hero. He didn’t have to do what he did. He stepped up for us. He went to the plate. He put his neck out.”
Parker, a long time Saints fan, was on the field at Monday's game. He was invited by the New Orleans Firefighters Association, but the highlight of his trip was talking with students about this moment in history.
“I tell them I felt the love of this nation and I am here for them because they are the future of this country,” Parker said.
Parker recounts his 9/11 experience in his book "Chiefs, Pawns & Warriors." Parker never intended to write a book but then his psychiatrist suggested it as a form of therapy after developing post traumatic stress syndrome.