Cinema and television fans know Steve Buscemi from a wide breadth of work. From Adam Sandler comedies to his career-defining turn through Boardwalk Empire, the man’s a living legend of an actor. In another life, however, he was a firefighter.
Now 63, Buscemi was a firefighter back in the 1980s. And when we suffered the worst foreign attack ever on American soil, he would return to the uniform.
“I kept calling the fire house the day before and of course there was no answer. Because I knew that they would be there,” Buscemi tells Marc Maron on a recent episode of his WTF podcast. “And then I eventually learned that five of them were missing.”
Steve Buscemi speaks of his old company, Engine 55. “One of them was a good friend of mine I used to work with” who went missing, he reveals. As a result – and four countless other reasons that need no explanation – the actor went directly into the fallout of 9/11 to work as a volunteer firefighter.
“I was driven to the site that day, walked around for hours and then found my company, found Engine 55 working there,” he recalls. “I asked if I could join them – I could tell they were a little suspicious at first, but I worked with them that day.”
Steve Buscemi Reveals He Suffers from PTSD as a Result of 9/11
But his work would not end after 24 hours. It had been decades since firefighter Steve Buscemi made calls. But for days, he was an actor no more. Buscemi became consumed by the horrors of September 11. And no matter how much time passes, those days spent helping survivors – and all of New York City – recover in 2001 are ever-present.
He knows he’s one of the lucky ones, too. Buscemi says he hasn’t discovered any physical health issues from his work during the time. Countless other first responders have fallen ill with cancer and other diseases. But his mental health? That’s another story.
“I haven’t experienced any health issues, and I get myself checked out, but definitely…. Post traumatic stress? Absolutely,” the Fargo actor reveals.
“I was only there for like five days, but when I stopped going and tried to just live my life again, it was really, really hard,” he continues. In other words, flipping the switch back to Steve Buscemi the actor felt impossible.
“I was depressed, I was anxious,” he cites. Things as small as making a “simple decision,” he says, were impossible in the weeks after. “All those things… It’s still with me.”
None of us will ever forget September 11. Or where we were when it happened. Or who we lost. And neither will Steve Buscemi.
“There are times when I talk about 9/11 and I’m right back there. I start to get choked up and I realize, ‘Ah, this is still a big part of me,” he concludes.
Buscemi wants listeners and readers to know that this year’s 20th anniversary of the terrorist attack may be a “trigger for some” who survive 9/11. But know that you’re not alone.