Firefighter Joseph Navarra, 49, did not respond to the World Trade Center On Sept. 11. He was at Fort Bragg for his annual two-week Army Reserve training.
"I should have been there at nine in the morning," he said. "When I watched the first building come down, I said 'Oh my God, 200 firefighters are dead.' Then 'Oh my God, which guys were working?' Then I said 'Oh my God, I could have been dead.'"
Navarra lost 50 friends that day. Now, the firefighter is serving as a soldier on their behalf.
The Army Colonel had his reserve duty at Fort Bragg extended. He said, "I volunteered right away."
Navarra was joined by fellow New York City firefighter David Abreu. In another twist of fate, Abreu also unable to respond to the terrorist attacks.
The 27-year-old was on light duty after being burned in a fire just weeks out of the academy.
"This is like a second mission for me," said Abreu, who was called up from the Army Reserves.
After attending funerals for 10 of his friends, the Army Sergeant said that serving his country now has additional meaning.
"I was there prior to this whole thing beginning, [and] now I'm going to end the whole thing. So it's a great thing to be on active duty right now," Abreu said.
Both men will be active duty soldiers at Fort Bragg for about a year. Several New York police officers are also serving at Fort Bragg.