Regina Wilson was only the 12th African-American woman to join the FDNY when she entered the force in 1999. During the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001, she was on the scene as one of the first responders at the World Trade Center site. Seven members of her firehouse — Engine 219 in Park Slope, Brooklyn — died that day.
Wilson remains one of only 10 African-African women on a force of more than 10,000 firefighters and officers, according to the Vulcan Society.
She has spoken out about how the presence of women at Ground Zero went unrecognized — as have the sacrifices of female firefighters in general.
"We always see images showing the brotherhood of our white male firefighters," Wilson said. "But there were a lot of women out there and not only women firefighters, but also female construction workers and emergency service responders. We all contributed to the recovery, but we were disregarded. It was disturbing, but I had to work and I did."
Regina bounced between Brooklyn and Los Angeles as a child — her mother was (and is) a long-term drug addict, and Regina's homelife was deeply troubled. Regina sought refuge and support with her Grandmother, Aunt, and extended family in Los Angeles every summer. She credits her Grandmother with setting her up for success, despite so many setbacks at home, and instilling a sense of worth and purpose.
"I never felt that I didn’t belong or wasn't wanted," Wilson said. " And my caring [for] other people comes from her. She taught me the beauty of helping people."