The 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks is bringing back traumatic memories for countless Americans—including Steve Buscemi, who was a New York City firefighter before he was an actor. He served with the Engine 55 company in Manhattan from 1980 to 1984, and returned to volunteer with the company after the attacks. "I kept calling the fire house ... and of course there was no answer," Buscemi recently told Marc Maron's WTF podcast, per Fox News. "Because I knew that they would be there. And then I eventually learned that five of them were missing. One of them was a good friend of mine I used to work with."
Buscemi said he grabbed his old gear the morning after the attacks, went to Ground Zero, and walked around until he found Engine 55. "I asked if I could join them," he said. "I could tell they were a little suspicious at first, but I worked with them that day." Buscemi said he spent the next five days working 12-hour days at Ground Zero, and he feels it definitely left him with PTSD. "When I stopped going and tried to just live my life again, it was really, really hard," he said. "I was depressed, I was anxious, I couldn’t make a simple decision." He added: "It's still with me. There are times when I talk about 9/11 and I’m right back there."
In an essay in Time, the 63-year-old says at the time, the dust was "more of a nuisance: pulverized concrete and who-knows-what that clogged a face mask, so fast you worked better without one." He notes that more firefighters are believed to have died from toxic exposure at the site than died on 9/11—but says that if the truth about carcinogens in the air had "been shared with the firefighters, I’m pretty sure they would have kept on working." Buscemi, a longtime advocate for firefighters' welfare, says, "Never forget, because people are still struggling. People are still dying." (Read more 9/11 anniversary stories.)