In honor of Women's History Month, this is the first in a series of blog posts spotlighting the stories of the diverse women who risked — and in many cases lost — their lives on 9/11 and in the aftermath.
When Regina Wilson joined the New York City Fire Department in 1999, she was one of just seven black candidates and the only woman in a class of more than 300.
"The weight of that," she said, "was already on my shoulders." 
After graduation, Wilson joined Engine 219/Ladder 105 in Park Slope. The morning of September 11, before the attacks, John Chipura — her colleague and mentor — made a seemingly ordinary request: would she trade duties with him? Wilson had been assigned to ride Ladder 105 truck that day and Chipura wanted some additional truck experience. Neither could have known the impact this request would have.
A short while later, news broke that a plane had struck the World Trade Center and Ladder 105 was quickly dispatched to the site. Wilson helped load up the rig with extra equipment and tools for her colleagues, who hopped aboard and headed to what seemed, initially, like a terrible accident.
After the impact of the second plane, as it became clear that the city was under attack, scores of additional first responders were called to the site. Wilson found herself rushing towards the World Trade Center on another firetruck. As they entered the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, they were hit by a massive gust of wind that shook the truck so violently they had to stop. At the time, she couldn’t imagine what would cause a truck holding 500 gallons of water to shake like that. What she had felt was the collapse of the South Tower.
Entering lower Manhattan, Wilson recalls a scene of total devastation.
“We saw this smoke, this white smoke that looked like a blizzard. [All] of these people started walking towards us that. . .had all this white dust on them.” 
She and fellow firefighters attempted to control the multiple blazes caused by the collapse in any way they could.
“We saw cars on fire, we had buildings on fire, we had all these different elements we had to deal with.” 
Wilson worked through the evening, returning to her firehouse around midnight. Seven members of Engine 219/Ladder 105 had been killed that day, including Chipura.
In the years since the attacks, Wilson has worked to honor her fallen colleagues, using her singing voice as a member of a ceremonial unit within the FDNY. She has also worked to bring attention to the contributions of women at Ground Zero and to advocate for a more diverse fire department, serving as president of both the United Women Firefighters Organization as well as the Vulcan Society, a fraternal organization for black first responders.
Beginning September 9, Wilson will share her story, along with three other speakers, as part of our seventh annual Anniversary in the Schools webinar. Register for this free program here.
This webinar is made possible in partnership with the New York Life Foundation.
By Jennifer Lagasse, Director of Education Programs