World's On Fire

Author's Note: Written as an assignment for English. Got an A! (Pre-series. A 9/11 story.)
Disclaimer: "Rescue Me" is not mine.

I'd had a feeling that the day was going to be a bad one. I just had no idea how bad.
It'd started out normal: up at five am to get to the station by six. My truck stalled in the driveway, so I was five minutes late. Okay, I can deal with that. I've been a whole lot later. I got there, and everyone was lying around, bored out of their minds and half-asleep. We only got an hour and a half before everything went to hell.
We didn't receive any sort of call; instead, we got a frantic wife demanding to know if her husband was okay. She yelled so loud that we heard her upstairs while she was arguing with the Chief in the garage. I'd turned back to my magazine, uninterested, and it was about three whole minutes before I realized that the room had fallen silent. I lowered my magazine and looked around. I was alone. That explained the silence. I sighed, then stood and went downstairs.
In the garage, the guys were standing around, staring at the woman as she sat on the floor, sobbing into her hands.
"What's going on?" I asked, shattering the quiet.
Franco Rivera, my best friend, turned and looked at me, his jaw slack, eyes wide and haunted.
"Franco?" My voice cracked on his name, panic sweeping through my body. "What happened?"
He swallowed and licked his lips, dropping his gaze to the floor.
"A plane flew into the Trade Center." Sean Garrity interjected softly before Franco could stutter out an answer.
The floor seemed to fall out from under me, and everything fell out of focus. "…What?" I finally replied, my voice deceptively calm.

When we got there, the towers had already fallen. People were running around, screaming, crying, and praying. I silently hoped that they would turn some of those prayers our way.
"Let's go, guys." Chief yelled over the din, his voice steady while his face was not.
I slapped on my helmet and grabbed an axe. I was about to follow my brothers into the proverbial fire when I felt a hand on my shoulder. "Tommy," I turned. Jimmy Keefe, my cousin, my blood brother in our childhood, held me in place. "Be careful."
"You too." I replied with dry mouth.
He nodded, but stared at me a moment longer before he gave my shoulder a pat and ran toward the ruin that was once a part of the New York skyline. I hesitated, God knows why, and then followed him in.

It wasn't long before I was separated from the others. Our priority was saving those who could not save themselves, so the whereabouts of our fellow firefighters quickly became the last thing in our minds.
I helped a group of suits out of the rubble, and it was only then that the absence of my cousin became apparent.
"Franco, you seen Jimmy?" I had to yell. My hearing was almost shot after listening to people screaming and fire gutting the building.
"I thought he was with you." Franco yelled back. My stomach dropped into my boots. He's still in there. "Tommy!" I ignored Franco and ran back into the burning building.

"Jimmy!" I coughed, moving my mask so he could hear me. "Jimmy, where the he-" I was interrupted by something unyielding hitting my feet, sending me sprawling to the floor. My flashlight was jarred from my hand. I swore, and then began hacking again. "You better be worth it," I muttered between coughs before I began looking around for my flashlight. I finally saw it laying a few feet from where I was strewn in the dirt. "Stupid-" I never finished that sentence.
The light lay on Jimmy's face, his eyes wide and glassy, mouth slightly open. But that wasn't what stopped me. It was the fact that his face; his head wasn't attached to his body. He had been decapitated.
My cousin was dead.
"Oh, God," I moaned and spun away from the horrific sight as my light breakfast, probably my dinner from the night before too, lurched up into my throat. However, turning away didn't help, because Jimmy's headless body lay at my feet. He was what I'd tripped over.
I vomited my guts out onto the floor, that image lingering in my head. He was dead. Oh, my God, he was dead, and I'd seen his body. Jesus, I never wanted to see that.
"Tommy," Franco's quiet voice suddenly hit my ear. I looked up. The dark Latino knelt before me, his face smudged black. "Let's get you out of here." He gently helped me to my feet.
"Jimmy, he-" I started.
"I know." Franco led me away, and then let me fall back to my knees. "It's going to be okay, Tommy."
Franco pulled me into a rough hug as I began to cry, hard, not only for my lost cousin, but for all those who had suddenly lost their lives, needlessly, on that September day.

Author's Note: I wrote this before I saw the pilot again. I'd forgotten that Jimmy was the one who lost a finger, and someone else had lost a head. Still, more effective, don't cha think?