9/11 survivor and Charleston resident speaks about life after tragedy

Local News

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD)- September 11, 2001 started off as a beautiful day for Chevalo Wilsondebriano, who was working in a Fire Department New York (FDNY) EMS Station in Queens at the time.

But then came the radio call that changed everything.

“They said that there was an explosion at the World Trade Center,” said Wilsondebriano.

After a short time on standby, Wilsondebriano’s disaster vehicle was told to move out to lower Manhattan as reports of the damage came in.

As Wilsondebriano traveled down from Queens, his girlfriend Monique watched the first tower fall. She called, begging him not to go.

“She told me ‘don’t go, get out of the vehicle, stop it. Don’t go because people are going to die,'” said Wilsondebriano, who did not listen.

When he arrived on the scene, Wilsondebriano immediately started helping injured firefighters.

“They came in the vehicle and I just had to start pulling oxygen masks. One guy had a cut and I’m trying to deal with his cut,” said Wilsondebriano. “Other guys were having trouble breathing.”

When the second tower collapsed, Wilsondebriano narrowly escaped in the back of a pickup truck driving away.

In the months after, he helped recover the bodies of the nearly 3,000 victims at Ground Zero.

“What really weighed on me was not being able to find people who were alive, people who I could use my paramedic skills to help them and keep them alive,” said Wilsondebriano.

Eventually Wilsondebriano married Monique and moved to Charleston.

“Tomorrow is not guaranteed so anything you want to do in life let’s just do it, let’s just go for it,” said Chevalo.

Out of tragedy came inspiration. The couple had always enjoyed hamburgers and decided to start their own business, Charleston Gourmet Burgers.

“We love burgers and we came up with idea, this concoction that you put in a burger and make it tastes really good,” said Chevalo.

The sauces and marinades made by the couple in their backyard are now sold across the world.

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