20 years later, retired NYC Fire Captain Alfredo Fuentes relives the life-changing 9/11 terrorist attacks


Flags representing the lives lost on 9/11 blow in the wind in Alumni Park at Pepperdine University in Malibu, CA. on Sept. 11, 2021. Photo credit: Ryan Bough

By Jane Walgren

Moorpark College held a memorable online event in honor of the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. “Portrait of Strength” included a discussion with retired NYC Fire Captain Alfredo Fuentes, survivor and battalion chief during the events of Sept. 11, 2001.

Julius Sokenu, president of Moorpark College, opened the “Portrait of Strength” event with a powerful speech about the impact 9/11 has left on the lives of countless people.

Sokenu noted that while the significance of that day remains heavy on the older generation, he hopes to see the younger generation continue to honor the victims and first responders.

“I think it’s very important for us to encourage those of you who were not alive to keep the memory alive,” said Sokenu.

Fuentes has received numerous awards for his heroic actions at the World Trade Center. His service goes beyond that as well, as he has also done work for the Federal Emergency Management Agency. During his career, he has assisted in disasters that have occurred not only in the United States but also around the world.

Fuentes reflected on the devastating events that unfolded at the World Trade Center on that fateful day and how it has impacted him 2 decades later.

“20 years ago, almost 3,000 innocent civilians were lost in just 102 minutes,” explained Fuentes. “In 102 minutes, our nation changed and my life changed.”

retired NYC Fire Captain Alfredo Fuentes addresses Moorpark College students and faculty while looking back on September 11th, 2001.
Retired NYC Fire Captain Alfredo Fuentes answers questions from Moorpark College students and faculty regarding Sept. 11, 2001. The meeting occurred over Zoom on Sept. 9, 2021. Photo credit: Jane Walgren

In the early morning of Sept. 11, 2001, Fuentes had started his usual workday. It wasn’t long after he started his morning when he was approached with the news that a plane had collided into one of the twin towers.

When Fuentes responded to the scene he saw an image he will never forget. He recalled witnessing civilians jumping from the building, detailing how some would jump together as a group. Fuentes himself had survived being trapped under rubble for two hours; however, the injuries he sustained created an extensive and long road to recovery.

During the event, a Q&A was held for students and faculty members to ask questions about the retired NYC Fire Captain’s perspective.

Fuentes addressed the negative impact that followed 9/11, specifically the hatred toward the Muslim communities. He also emphasized the similarities in behaviors towards Asian Americans as we face COVID-19 misconceptions.

“When we went in on 9/11, it didn’t matter if you were black, if you were Muslim, if you were Irish, if you were German,” said Fuentes. “What mattered was your life.”

In addition, he spoke about the importance of Muslim Student Associations, also known as MSAs in schools. Fuentes emphasized the importance of students educating others on their culture and spreading awareness.

Moving forward, Fuentes’s hope is to see more unity and less division in the future. Fuentes is optimistic that students and teachers will put in the work that’s necessary to build a better world for the next generation.

“All I want to do is just plant some seeds,” said Fuentes. “You know, I want to just plant some seeds. We have enough hate. We don’t need hate, we need love.”

Director of Student Equity Johnny Conley mentioned the strong and active MSA at Moorpark College. To learn more information about the club, follow the Muslim Student Association on Instagram.

To donate to The Patriot Group, an organization founded by Alfredo Fuentes that provides emergency resources after a disaster, one may visit the website.