Earl C. Johnson knows firsthand what first responders are made of. As a 9/11 survivor, he saw heroic sacrifices by emergency workers during the September 2001 terror attacks in New York City that inspired him to run for fire commissioner of Washington's Bainbridge Island Fire Department.

He detailed his life-changing experiences in a 2005 book, "Stairwell to Heaven -- A 9/11 World Trade Center Survivor's Story of Escape, Heroism."

Wednesday, Johnson will share his story with Yakima when he speaks at Eisenhower High School's gym, 611 S. 44th Ave., at 6 p.m. The event is free and open to the public, according to Eisenhower guidance counselor and class adviser Stephani Kinney.

An announcement from Kinney includes this description of Johnson's background:

"In March 2001, Earl Johnson accepted a job in New York and began 'commuting' from Bainbridge Island to his new office on the 51st floor of the World Trade Center. His wife, Arlene, and their three children joined him in New York in August of that year. On the morning of Sept. 11, Johnson arrived at work half an hour earlier than usual. He heard a loud explosion, followed by a shaking and swaying of the building so massive that he was lifted off the floor and thrown into a nearby wall. Johnson's first thought was that this was a really big quake, only to realize that he was no longer in the Pacific Northwest. ..."

"Not long after the tragedy of that day, Johnson and his family moved back to Bainbridge Island where he served several years as Fire Commissioner of the Bainbridge Island Fire Department."