BRADENTON, Fla. — Richy and Denise Evers had been married 12 years when their lives changed forever.
- Richy Evers, a retired firefighter, worked at Ground Zero
- Denise Evers worked with other nurses to create decontamination unit at hospital
- Couple moved to Bradenton in 2002
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Richy was a retired firefighter for Rescue 2 in Brooklyn. Denise was a former 911 dispatcher turned emergency room nurse.
The morning of September 11, 2001, the two said their goodbyes at their Staten Island home and ran towards danger.
“I was petrified that I would never see him again when he walked out the door,” Denise said.
Richy had just gotten neck surgery. His health didn’t stop him from heading to the firehouse, then jumping aboard a city bus to assist at the World Trade Center.
He worked into the night through the clouds of rubble and debris.
“As the smoke cleared and you could see the structures, I knew they were all dead,” Richy said.
Denise was off work that day. She was supposed to be boarding a flight for a conference in a matter of hours.
When she saw on TV the scene in New York City, she took off for the hospital where she worked. She arrived to find it on lockdown and worked with her fellow nurses to create a decontamination unit in the hospital parking lot.
“People were coming in covered in white dust head to toe,” she remembered.
Much of the days after became a blur. Richy had the gut-wrenching task of calling the families of missing firefighters.
“Every night I would call the wives up and I’d give them any kind of information,” he said. “In my mind I knew they were dead, but I’m not saying that to the wives.”
Over the next three months, the couple attended a service or funeral for a fellow firefighter or friend on all but two days. They estimate they knew over 130 people killed that day.
In 2002, they relocated to Bradenton, and had a hard time coping at first.
“I still had him,” Denise said pointing at Richy. “I had tremendous guilt that he was still here. He had guilt that he was still here. Then I would go and see my friends and they would be the ones that lost their husbands and sons and it was just a feeling of inadequacy at that point in time.”
The Evers receive frequent visits from the widows of the firefighters lost that day.
Their one hope is that those who left us on September 11, 2001, are never forgotten.