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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Heroes of 9/11: Maureen Shulman

Aired September 11, 2002 - 06:31   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


AARON BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Over the course of this day, we'll take a look at some of the "Heroes of 9/11." How many heroes there were that day, if we sat here for months, we couldn't chronicle them all. In many cases, these will be people you have not heard of over the course of the last year.
Our first is a firefighter, one of many who raced to the scene, and one of the fortunate who made it out alive. An extremely rare breed within the brotherhood of the New York City Fire Department for one simple reason: this firefighter is a woman, Maurine Shulman, one of New York's bravest.

Here is CNN's Maria Hinojosa.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARIA HINOJOSA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): What a mistake they made, when they told Maureen Shulman that she couldn't do something just because she was a girl. Come on! She grew up a tomboy with five brothers, the first girl on the Little League team.

Her father, an uncle and two brothers were all firefighters. She wanted to become one. She fought for the right, and 20 years ago, was among the first women. Her fellow firefighters taunted her.

MAUREEN MCAROLE-SHULMAN, NEW YORK FIREFIGHTER: I have a little bumper sticker on my locker, and it says, "Irish temper and German stubbornness." And my thing the whole 20 years is they're not going to win. They're not going to win. I'm going to win, because nobody is as stubborn and pigheaded as I am.

HINOJOSA: Stubborn, too, about not wanting to seen as someone special just because she's one of only 25 female firefighters in a force of over 11,000, stubborn about not wanting to be interviewed. After September 11, that changed.

SHULMAN: This is very uncomfortable for me. The only reason I'm doing it is because women pretty much, as far as the media is concerned, were totally not recognized at ground zero as doing anything.

HINOJOSA: Last year on September 11, Maureen raced down to the World Trade Center as part of her Harlem ladder company. She had never witnessed anything like this.

SHULMAN: When people started jumping, they all kept saying, my God, how horrible could it be up there that they're doing this? And the only way I could come to terms with it, at least they got to choose how they were going to die.

HINOJOSA: Just like she could have died.

SHULMAN: There was a ring of fire on the roof. The whole top floor was on fire. And what I saw -- what I think happened was, from the puffing (ph) and jumping, was the pancaking of the floors as they were collapsing.

You were mesmerized, and you can't believe what you're seeing. I think by the third time somebody yelled, "Run," I came out of my trance.

HINOJOSA: Just by seconds, she survived the first tower collapsing, and ran to her rig with another firefighter, where she thought she was safe, when suddenly...

SHULMAN: I said to him, that's exactly what the other tower -- it looked like the floor down. So, he ran and dove under a rig across the street, and I went to the backstep of the rig and got in like the fetal position, hoping the hose -- behind the hoses, the hose would protect me. And the second tower came down. It was just -- it was horrible.

HINOJOSA: Twice, she'd escaped death. Twice, she went back, like the hundreds of firefighters that day, men and women.

One year later, she is training new recruits to show that same kind of courage, proving yet again that women can be among the bravest.

SHULMAN: Hopefully, if they see me here, that when they go out in the field and they see another woman, it won't be devastating for them or shocking.

HINOJOSA: Never wanting to be called a hero, but seen as one, especially by the women in her life, like one of her daughters.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I definitely think she is a hero, and she would never say that. Ever. And it's just she tries her hardest. She worked through a lot of adversity to get to where she is, and you know, she really worked hard.

HINOJOSA: And still does, in memory of all of those lost, the men and women of ground zero that Maureen will never forget.

Maria Hinojosa, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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