What difference would it make to know what someone was thinking? The reality is they had a job to do and went in to save as many lives as possible, knowing they may not come back.
How is going in to do your job on 9/11 any different than any other significant fire where you know you may not go home? How many people have been on a RIT team when a MAYDAY was called and thought for a second that if they went in, that they may not come back?
Just the very nature of the job can sum up the mindsets, sure there is concern, a sense of fear (in many cases), We know such things from those who have survived and told their tale. This isn't just from those on 9/11, but in many other significant fire events. We respond because that is our job, we take calculated risks to do the most benefit, we train to develop a "muscle memory" so that we don't let our emotions overtake us. It is the job to help others and the sheer number of survivors on 9/11 is a testament to those members who went in to help get them out.
John; The mind set of the people involved in any historical event is indeed important. The reason Ken Burns's series on the civil war and the dust bowl were so powerful was that he delved into the mind set of those involved. Surely the mindset of the probationary firefighter, seeing his first high rise fire was different then the 20 year veteran who had fought high rise fires before. To ask the question, in no way questions the resolve of the men and women all over the world who go out the door every day knowing they may not come back.
The dust bowl and civil war are long term events, not the same aspect as a single fire event. What I'm getting at is that the mindset doesn't really matter when doing the job, it is the job of a FF to go in and do the best they can for savable people first then property, that is what happened.
I'm quite sure the mind set of a probie and 20 year vet are going to be drastically different, but again, the point is that they still did/do the job as trained. My point here was what does it matter what these guys thought on 9/11 as opposed to any other significant fire event, Worcester, Charleston, Chicago, etc....or any number of MAYDAY type of events where a FF was lost. The point is you don't see FFs running away because they are scared that they may die, on the contrary, you tend to see where FFs want to make another push to get the fallen FFs out.....such as Worcester.
That is the purpose of training, to develop that "muscle memory" so that responses become more automatic as opposed to emotional. For instance in the Navy, there is a fire drill every day and usually a General Quarters (battle stations) drill weekly. This is to develop that muscle memory so that emotions are not the driving force. I'm sure other branches do similar things in training.
We know enough from survivors of such fire events and even other occupations such as military, that one can ascertain a certain "mindset" that was going on....essentially boiling down to doing the job. Sure there is fear, anxiety, and so forth, but the difference is to not let those be the controlling components from doing the job.
In regards to the OP's question, we know from survivor interviews that there were those who thought the towers could come down, some who thought they wouldn't. What does it matter? They still went in and knew the odds were stacked against them. Had the towers not collapsed, it still would have been a hell of a day. Furthermore, we can see from pictures and such that FFs went in expecting to work a fire job, carrying tools, hoses, air bottles, with them. I would say that is protocol and how they are trained, regardless of their emotions, that is what they reverted on and went in and did their jobs.
John; You say mindset doesn't matter, you do the job. I think mindset is what gets you to do the job. Just as the mindset of those at Worchester and Charleston was what made them push in. I don't believe the WTC firefighters mindset was differant then those at Worchester. The fact that the WTC was a single event that had very few firefighter survivors of the collapse, prevents us from knowing. Again I'm only looking at this in a historical context. When we look at pictures of the troops lined up in the Civil war, we can say "wow, I wonder what those guys were thinking" and because of Ken Burns we know. The same can't be said for the pictures of the rescue people entering the towers.
That is part of my point, we DO know from survivor interviews from such incidents of what they thought. We know that there is/was fear, anxiety, trepidation, but nonetheless, they still performed the job, it is what they are TRAINED to do.
Overall that is the bottom line, it is about training and muscle memory to be able to perform when your emotions tell you otherwise. One's mindset at the point really doesn't matter, we know that FFs get scared, but perform nonetheless. They perfrom because that is what they are trained to do, no different than a new FF going to an academy or a new recruit going to boot camp. You consistently train so that your reactions are based on a systematic approach as opposed to emotional. It is just like someone who has a fear of heights and has to climb a ladder, you keep working and training on it so that it becomes a muscle memory rather than an emotional response.
When it comes down to this particular discussion and talking about what "mindset" these FFs may have had, again what does it matter? What really are we going to learn from it? Does it really change anything? The guys went in, they saved many lives, they did their job. Really that is all that matters. Wondering what those who can't speak were thinking when they went in is moot and becomes really nothing more than a voyeuristic curiosity.