Mesilla Fire Chief reflects on time spent volunteering at Ground Zero


LAS CRUCES – In the days and weeks following the September 11, 2001 attacks, volunteers from across the country seized the opportunity to help with the rescue and recovery efforts at Ground Zero in New York City.

Before the first tower collapsed that day, Mesilla Fire Chief Kevin Hoban was on the phone, eager to volunteer.

Remember September 11

It started out as an ordinary Tuesday morning for Hoban who, at the time, was a paramedic for American Medical Response. The clock radio rang. It was tuned to KLYT-FM from Albuquerque.

“I was about to get up and get ready to go to work,” he said. “And the DJ on the radio station I was listening to told me they were getting reports of a plane that hit one of the World Trade Center towers. So I got up and turned on the television and the first tower was on fire.

At first he thought it had to be an accident. “But then, as I was watching it live, I saw the other plane come in and hit the second tower.”

Hoban was also an intermittent federal responder with the National Disaster Medical System, so he immediately called his Commander-in-Chief of the Disaster Medical Assistance team, who told him everyone was on alert.

“And that was before I even learned of the attacks on the Pentagon and Shanksville,” Hoban said. “So I went ahead and showed up to work at AMR, and just tried to catch the news as we could. We were all sort of glued to the station’s television, and during that time, we answered calls as they came. “

Hoban said he went to Signergy on North Main Street and bought a large American flag. That afternoon, he strapped him to his ambulance when he attended a horseshoe community meeting on the campus of New Mexico State University.

Kevin Hoban, Fire Chief of the Mesilla Fire Department, is pictured at the Mesilla Fire Station in Mesilla on Thursday, September 9, 2021.

Deployed at Ground Zero

It wasn’t until the end of October that Hoban’s team were deployed to Ground Zero, where their job was to medically support first responders who were still sifting through the burning debris of the collapsed towers. Upon arrival, he said his team made reservations at the Hilton Garden Inn on 54th Street.

“And the strangest thing has happened,” he said. “As I was walking down the hall, I was stopped by a man who gave me a picture of his daughter on a button. He said, ‘She’s my daughter; she died at the World Trade Center.

More than a month after the attacks, the crash site was still on fire. “The fires burned until Christmas,” Hoban said. “As they were digging through the rubble, air and oxygen rushed in and the fire started again. It was like opening hell.

Even in November, Hoban said first responders were removing “heat glowing” beams.

As thousands of first responders scoured the rubble, Hoban and his team were there to provide medical support. He said he would never forget the sights and sounds – the scraping of machinery and the smells of concrete and soot – he experienced at Ground Zero.

“It was the real deal. It wasn’t a two-dimensional picture on your phone, ”he said. “It was a war zone.

‘This is who I am’

When asked what prompted him to volunteer for the 9/11 recovery efforts, he replied that it was a number of things.

“I wanted to serve my country, and I wanted to help my brothers and sisters who were working out there in the heap, in the rubble,” he said. “I wanted to support my teammates on the DMAT team. It was just a desire to make a difference – and to help.

For Hoban, the desire to serve comes naturally, he said.

“This is who I am. I want to serve my country, not just my community. I was not eligible to serve in the military because of a hearing problem. I am deaf in one ear, ”he explained. Although he hoped to join the Air Force and become a pilot – and got an appointment at the Air Force Academy – he learned during his medical exam that he couldn’t join.

He has since found other ways to serve others.

“He’s been witness to just about every huge incident that has happened in the past 25 years,” said Hoban’s daughter Crystal DeArmond, who was in her final year of high school when the 9/11 attacks took place. “My father has always been like that. He will do what he has to do and do whatever it takes to make it happen. I am extremely proud of him.

Seleena Hoban, who was 14 when the attacks took place, said her father seems to learn something every time he’s called and comes home with a strong sense of gratitude.

“The courage it takes – the heart it takes – you just can’t figure it out sometimes,” Seleena said.

When asked what he would say to the families of those he helped at Ground Zero, his response came quickly:

“Thank you for letting me serve you. “

Damien Willis is a senior reporter for the Las Cruces Sun-News. He can be reached at 575-541-5443, Where @DamienWillis on Twitter.

Southern New Mexico remembers 9/11

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