A firefighter who met the love of his life as they battled to save lives during the 9/11 Twin Towers atrocity PROPOSED on the anniversary of the terror attack – 17 years later.
David O’Neal, 48, and Missy Epperson, 54, met as first responders at Ground Zero, where she worked with the K-9 unit whilst he was a Station 43 fireman.
They kept in touch online following the attack, but had not met again in the flesh until he moved from New York, to Illinois, to see Missy for the first time since the horror.
That was in July 2018, and now, after a whirlwind romance the couple are to tie the knot on September 11, next year.
David, now retired, said: “I wanted to get engaged on 9/11 to turn it into a happy day. I wish I had married her onsite 17 years ago.”
Bride-to-be Missy said: “It’s made something happy out of something devastating. In a way, 9/11 brought us together.”
Firefighter David was just blocks away from the World Trade Center when the first plane hit on the morning of September 11, 2001.
He said: “I didn’t see it, but I could hear it. The whole entire ground shook. It was chaos.
“Everything started falling. There was shattered glass and pieces of steel coming from the sky.
“People were running out and screaming. I was across the street when the second plane hit. There were injured and dead everywhere. I was scared as hell.
“My job was to find the remains. They were splattered apart all over. When I found them, I had to bag them, tag them, and drop them down to the morgue.
“I saw a lot of stuff that no one would ever want to see.”
Three days later, on September 14, Missy arrived with the midwest K-9 unit to help with the rescue effort.
Missy, a retired paramedic, said: “When I heard what happened I immediately began making arrangements to volunteer.
“I knew what the loss of life was going to be, and I wanted to help. David and I were doing what we were supposed to do. The devastation was totally out of this world.”
David added: “Me and Missy talked at the time but it was nothing romantic. Everyone was just focused on working together as a team.”
Missy – who has assisted in over 50 relief missions from Hurricane Sandy and Katrina to the 2011 tsunami in Japan – stayed onsite for 33 days before returning to Illinois.
Seven months later in March 2002 an accident on the site of the North tower forced David – who has two daughters from a previous marriage – to retire early.
In the years that followed, the pair suffered immensely from PTSD, as well as from a number of health problems as a result of their time spent at Ground Zero.
Missy – who has one daughter and three grandchildren from an earlier marriage, said: “Years later I added David as a friend on Facebook.
“If I was ever having a bad day, Davey was there for me – he understood.
“Earlier this year I asked him if he’d like to come visit me, because he said he needed a change. We had a special connection straight away.”
David proposed to Missy at the 9/11 memorial in Decatur, Illinois, on the anniversary of the attack.
Missy, of Maytoon, Illinois, said: “I was stunned when he got down on one knee in front of everyone.
“We’re going to get married on the 9/11 anniversary next year. David has already picked out my dress – it’s beautiful.
“We’ve been through a lot of bad times – but from now on, together, it’ll just be good times.”
David added: “Everything just clicked in so many ways with us. She’s my hero.”