Heading into Manhattan after the Twin Towers were struck, then-Fire Captain Jack Joyce said firefighters were in their personal vehicles without the most basic equipment.
He also figured the rescue trucks would be damaged or destroyed so he told his guys to stop at a hardware store on Union Turnpike in Queens and grab whatever they could.
"Basically 30, 40 guys ran in the door and we stripped the place bare," Joyce told WCBS 880's Peter Haskell.
They grabbed flashlights, extension cords, saws and other tools before leaving an IOU.
"I explained to the owner at the time I said, 'We need all this equipment because we have to go into a collapsed area,'" Joyce said, who remembered later getting a bill from the store for more than $30,000.
When they got downtown, Joyce laid it on the line saying, "You know some of us are not coming back, that's how bad I think this is gonna be guys."
"And not one guy said a word. That to me is the epitome of bravery and the epitome of a New York City firefighter," said the 55-year-old who retired as a battalion chief after 30 years.
Every piece of that equipment from the hardware store was used.