MARANA, Ariz. (KGUN) — The 20th anniversary of 9/11 hits close to home for Dan Rowan. He lives in Marana now, but on September 11th, 2001 he was a firefighter in New York City.
The 20th anniversary is a reminder to him that time doesn't heal all wounds.
"It's a reoccurring dream. You wake up in the morning and you're still living 9/11. It's 20 years down the line but you're still living 9/11," Rowan said.
He was off duty that day, painting a house with two fellow firefighters, when his wife called to tell them a plane had flown into the north tower of the World Trade Center.
"We all looked at each other, 'we got to go right now.' We all hopped in a car and made it down. I make it down there as the second tower comes down, as the north tower comes down," Rowen said. "Engine 33 and Ladder 9 are all in that tower. Half of 9 truck, God bless, made it out. All of 33 did not make it out. We lost 10 men. You know that's a tough pill to swallow."
Rowan joined the recovery effort at ground zero. For three days they searched for their fallen brothers from the firehouse.
"They gave us 72 hours and then we were ordered home. You got to go home and be with family. You go home for 24 hours but you can't stay there. Your wife knows," he said.
"Georgene just said 'make a u-turn, I know you can't be here. Just go back and be there with your team.' So that was pretty tough. I lasted less than 24 hours and went back for another 72."
He remembers the fallen members of his firehouse to this day by always carrying cards with their pictures and names.
Rowan recently retired from the Marana Police Department. It was his second career in public safety after retiring from the New York City Fire Department in 2004.
20-years later, the loss continues for Rowan. Many of his fellow firefighters have died from Ground Zero-related illnesses.
That includes his good friend Bob Massey, who was painting the house with him on 9/11, before they both raced to the burning towers.
Two years ago, he got a phone call from Massey's wife.
"They found something else. He was down in three weeks. Then Kathy calls up and says 'I'm not going to pull the plug until you get there. You have to be there with him. Oh God. So that was a tough day."
Rowan says moving from New York to Arizona saved his life. He said the dry climate is helping him avoid the same lung issues many of the firefighters at Ground Zero have succumb to.
"Arizona has saved my life. There's no ifs, ands, or buts about it. I have to continue on. You can't sit home and dwell on it. It eats you up from the inside out."
Now, Rowan's Mission is making sure no one forgets. He'll be at the 9/11 ceremonies on Saturday as they mark the time each tower fell.
He's looking forward to meeting the new crop of New York City Firefighters, some of whom are the sons and daughters of fallen firefighters from 9/11.