On Sept. 11, 2001, FDNY Firefighter Douglas Oelschlager answered his last alarm with Ladder 15 working inside the South Tower at the World Trade Center. Doug Oelschlager was also a member of the St. James Fire Department and Captain of Eagle Hook & Ladder.
Born in Kittery, Maine, Douglas Oelschlager, better known as Doug “O”, lived with his wife, Suzanne, and their two daughters, Kayla and Brittany, in St. James, New York. When his daughters were growing up, Doug was everywhere. He showed up at Brittany’s baseball games and her Girl Scout meetings. When Kayla was learning to dance or ride a horse, Doug cheered her on. “He was like Mr. Mom,” said Brittany.
When Brittany received her college diploma, she wishes her father were alive to share the moment. He has missed many such milestones for both girls. Doug took the girls for breakfast to the St. James firehouse where he volunteered. If they were not there, they were hanging out on the family boat, Island Hopper. Sometimes, the trio went fishing.
“Doug and I, we had a great marriage,” said Suzanne. “When I couldn’t pick something up, he swooped in and picked it up.” In some ways, the girls grew up to be like their father, Suzanne said. “Brittany is very warm inside and out and loves to be there for people, just like he was. Kayla is so spontaneous. There is nothing in the game plan. She just goes and does it and has the best time doing it.” Kayla has since followed in her father’s footsteps and is now an active member of the St. James Fire Department.
On September, 11, 2001, Firefighter Oelschlager responded to the South Tower with Ladder Company 15. He was 36 years old.
At 9:03 A.M. on September 11, 2001, terrorists crashed United Airlines Flight 175 into the World Trade Center’s South Tower. Four minutes later, FDNY Battalion 7 Chief. his aide, and five firefighters from Ladder 15 arrived in that tower’s lobby. Doug was among those five firefighters from Ladder 15.
Battalion 7 Chief, his aide an the five members of Ladder 15 then used a working service elevator and proceeded to the 40th floor. Their mission was to reach the fire floor, report on the situation, and begin to direct the deployment of additional units. Radio transmissions from members of Ladder 15 can be heard at 9:07 running through 9:19 A.M..
Once Ladder 15 reached the 40th floor, they began the ascent up the stairs with each member carrying 60 to 80 pounds of gear and equipment. While climbing, they received a report of a way to those trapped above the fire floor from a person whom they believed to have actually been Morgan Stanley’s head of security. Additional units began arriving on the 40th floor. These transmissions run from 9:21 to 9:35 A.M.
Members of Ladder 15 encountered the injured and directed them to the elevator. One of the survivors encountered the first firefighters from Ladder 15 somewhere around the 55th floor and remembers them carrying a load of heavy equipment which clearly slowed them down. She told them that there were many injured people on the 78th floor and to please help them.
Ladder 15 members told her to keep going down to the 40th floor where there was an elevator bank. They continued to climb, attempted to find an elevator that terminated below the fire, and relayed to each other what they saw and who they found. This audio runs from 9:37 to 9:50 A.M.
Ladder 15 reached the fire floor, witnessed the devastation, fought fires, found the way to those trapped above, and called for more units. These transmissions begin at 9:52 A.M.. The transmissions went silent at 9:59 A.M. when the South Tower collapsed. Rescue workers found in the South Tower a part of his helmet that bears his badge number. His remains have not been recovered.
A garden has been created on the grounds of St. James Fire Department Station #2 to honor and keep his memory alive. It is with great pride that this garden is maintained by the members of the Eagle Hook and Ladder and members of the St. James Fire Department.
WE WILL NEVER FORGET! REST IN PEACE, BROTHER!