Local men helped at Ground Zero after 9/11

By Elisabeth Waldon • Last Updated 4:32 pm on Monday, September 12, 2011

Bill Groom and Mike Andrews are longtime members of the Orleans Township Fire Department. Both men went to help their fellow firefighters in New York City after 9/11.

ORLEANS TOWNSHIP — Two veteran firefighters were as shocked as anyone to see the events of Sept. 11, 2001, unfold.
Mike Andrews and Bill Groom are longtime members of the Orleans Township Fire Department. Today is Andrews’ 65th birthday while Groom is 60.
Both men went to New York City immediately after 9/11 to help their fellow firefighters.
Groom is now retired from the U.S. Air Force, but he was an active member 10 years ago. He recalls being at the international guard base in Battle Creek on 9/11 when someone ran into his office and told him the World Trade Center had been hit.
“Everybody was looking at each other saying what’s going on, what are we gonna do now? It was just confusion,” he recalled. “They locked us down for three days before I could go home.”
Andrews is a retired truck driver. He was driving in Grand Rapids on 9/11.
“I came back off my run and everybody said to come on in and watch TV, one of the towers was on fire,” he remembers.
Neither man knew what to do, but they both wanted to help.
“Something hit me that I had to go out there,” Andrews said. “I had to go. That’s all there was to it. I don’t know what motivated me, it just seemed like something I had to do.”
“It’s just my nature,” Groom said. “I just like to help people. Anything I could do, that’s what I wanted to do.”
A few days after 9/11, the two men went to New York City with fellow Shiloh Community Church members. They stayed there for a week, distributing food and drinks from a warehouse to those working at Ground Zero.
“We could look out the door and see the Statue of Liberty,” Groom said.
Groom was able to go to the site of Ground Zero.
“It reminded me a lot of a war zone,” he said. “It was just chaos. Rubble was still burning. The smell, it’s just an overwhelming smell.”
Andrews too was overwhelmed by the experience.
“The pictures don’t really say anything,” he said. “You had to be there to experience the smells and the dust. The people in New York were extremely friendly then. Everybody welcomed us. They couldn’t believe that we came that far to help.”
Both men continue to serve on the Orleans Township Fire Department. Groom also works part-time for Belding Dial-A-Ride and Life EMS Ambulance.
“I just wanted to get in there and help them,” he said of going to New York one decade ago. “Firefighters are family, same as the military, the police department, anything like that.”

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