It was one of those iconic moments. Anyone old enough on September 11, 2001 remembers where they were, and how they became informed of the acts that transformed the history of this nation.
On that day, the lives of 2,977 people came to a tragic end as the deplorable acts of 19 al-Qaeda terrorists in four terrorists cells hijacked commercial aircraft.
The hijackers were organized into three groups of five hijackers and one group of four. The first plane to hit its target was American Airlines Flight 11. It was flown into the North Tower of the World Trade Center complex in Lower Manhattan at 8:46 a.m.
Seventeen minutes later at 9:03 a.m, the World Trade Center’s South Tower was hit by United Airlines Flight 175. Both 110-story towers collapsed within an hour and forty-two minutes, leading to the collapse of the other World Trade Center structures including 7 World Trade Center, and significant damage to surrounding buildings.
Less than 35 minutes into the flight, a third plane, American Airlines Flight 77, flown from Dulles International Airport, was hijacked over Ohio. At 9:37 a.m. the hijackers stormed the cockpit and forced the passengers, crew, and pilots to the rear of the aircraft. Hani Hanjour, one of the hijackers who was trained as a pilot, assumed control of the flight. Unknown to the hijackers, passengers aboard made telephone calls to friends and family and relayed information on the hijacking.
The hijackers crashed the aircraft into the western side of the Pentagon at 9:37 a.m. The impact severely damaged an area of the Pentagon and caused a large fire. A portion of the building collapsed; firefighters spent days working to fully extinguish the blaze.
The fourth, and final flight, United Airlines Flight 93, was flown in the direction of Washington, D.C. This flight was the only plane not to hit its intended target, instead crashing in a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, at 10:03 a.m. The plane’s passengers attempted to regain control of the aircraft away from the hijackers and ultimately diverted the flight from its intended target. Investigators determined that Flight 93’s target was either the White House or the Capitol Building.
The end result was thousands of deaths and injuries over the span of the next decades, both military and civilian from numerous countries. Even today, those who responded to the New York City attack continue to suffer, both physically and emotionally.
On this anniversary the stories of Wayne County emergency personnel still recall a resounding piece of that fateful event.
On this coming Saturday, September 11, 2021, there will be a dedication ceremony and 9/11 Tribute for Wayne County Sheriff’s Deputy William “Bill” Carr and K-9 Deputy Quigley for their service and sacrifice that came out of that fateful day. The event will take place from 3pm to 4pm in Heritage Park located on Glasgow Street in Clyde. There will be music, speakers, and lastly the dedication of a plaque that will remain in Heritage Park for the years to come.
Bill opted to go with his K-9 partnerto help search for bodies in the seemingly never ending piles of rubble. Serving along with Bill after the attack was then-Deputy and current Wayne County Sheriff Chief Deputy Rob Milby.
“It is hard to believe that twenty years have passed since that tragic day that changed our country forever. I remember watching the tragedy unfold on television as if it was yesterday. Days later, when the call came out for help at the site, it was the answer to the constant question in my head, “What can I do to help?”
“Deputy William Carr, K-9 Deputy Quigley and I responded. Our mission was to help recover those who were lost at Ground Zero. We were part of a larger effort to assist in establishing a DNA database to identify and confirm victims of the attack. At the time, I had no idea what an impact this new mission would have. It did not dawn on my me until we were at Ground Zero, and I saw the wall….that wall that had hundreds of letters, pictures, and notes on it from those who were holding on to hope that their loved ones had escaped the towers that day and were missing somewhere. It was heartbreaking walking up to that wall. Children, parents, friends, relatives and coworkers, were all hanging onto hope. They were looking for any sign that their loved ones were still alive. It was one of the most emotional events of my life, and still chokes me up when I talk about it today. Those who posted on that wall needed closure, and it was then that I realized that they too, were victims. That is what drove everyone on that detail to pick up the pace, as it related to our function in NYC. It was a pivotal moment in my career.
As a public servant, it is my duty to look out for those in distress, those who need direction as a result of becoming a victim,...I mean anyone affected by nefarious acts upon our citizens. There are certain smells or sounds that will trigger memories of our time there; I can easily be brought right back in time as I reflect. I will periodically review photos that I kept, which document my activities there, which reinforces my drive to advocate for victims.”
“Deputy Carr was K-9 Quigley’s handler. They would identify what I needed to collect. We took the midnight shift to help expedite the mission. Immediately following our time there, Quigley died as a result of his work in New York City. Recently, Deputy Carr also passed away, with his work during that week being a contributing factor. “
“I am under yearly monitoring to detect any health-related issues from our work there. Should my involvement be a contributing factor to my passing, then so be it. I am confident in saying that all three of us would go back and do it again, as would so many others that lost their health to participation at Ground Zero”.
Macedon resident and now Lyons Station State Police Investigator Scott Carr, requested and was sent to New York City about a week after the event.
He was assigned to the security at the entrance to a road used to hold a long row of tents used for autopsies from bodies found at the site.
Scott remembers the tractor trailers lined the road and, refrigerated trucks to hold the bodies while awaiting the autopsy work.
“The road ran between the old and new Belvue Hospital at the back entrance FDR Drive by the East River. No cameras were allowed anywhere near this area. Security details secured the morgue area and the bridges,” he recalled.
“A large wall was constructed to keep the road from view. Flyers, notes and photos were on the wall. People with photos would stop by and ask if anyone had seen their relatives or friends. They were everywhere”, he added.
Scott explained that when a body was removed from the 9/11 site, a ceremony was always held, an honor guard of sorts, and then again when the remains were unloaded at the autopsy site or hospital. Bodies were brought back to the hosplital/autopsy tents. Asked about body parts rather than just bodies being found…Scott said “I don’t talk about that.”
“I worked with DMORT (Disaster Mortician Operational Response Team) and with multiple agencies and learned a lot about funeral services.”
Mark O’Donnell was already a seasoned State Trooper with 13 year of service when he arrived at the 9/11 site. He revealed that it was a combination of Troopers being assigned and Troopers asking to go after the attack. “ I actually went back seven times. I was single and had the time and the will.”
Mark, now a Lieutenant with Troop E, out of Canandaigua and the Trooper Public Relations spokesman, indicated the State Police was responsible for Security at the site, the bridges, morgues, around Ground Zero. Troopers not only secured sites, but also escorted politicians, local and state officials to see Ground Zero for themselves.
He remembers when the entire Yankee Baseball team came down to the Javitts Center (which was the Command Post) just to thank and support the workers and responders. “
When I first arrived a day or so after the attack, the fires were still burning, smoke everywhere. It was “a logistical nightmare, as well as calm chaos”. Mark recalls the fire and smoke still burned for months after the tragedy.
“My first impression as we arrived in the City just days after the attack, was that it was a mass exodus….miles of cars just leaving the city… traffic jams. They fled. Everyone was afraid”.
He recalled one late night, that he was standing with a couple of other State Troopers around a Troop car near the Mariott Marquis hotel in Times Square, and there was not another person around. Times Square was empty. Another time, he ran into a firefighter, who was lost. He had been left behind by his unit, because they could not find him. “His Fire Company was in the Bronx and he wanted to know if I knew how he could get there. I told him to hop in, I would drive him there. He was very grateful”. Everyone on the streets was grateful for the responders - they would clap and wave, salute and cheer, and wave flags.
In retrospect, “I will always remember the smell. It was awful and really cannot be described. But just to think of everything that was in 2 110 story buildings – furniture, plants, food, paper, copiers, coats, and of course, people, everything was part of that smoke.
For those who served as responders there is an organization that offers medical check ups to anyone who was part of that clean up. The World Trade Center Health Care Network, does yearly check ups to diagnose any 9/11 related illnesses, diseases, cancers. “Our clothes, our food, the air – all contaminated. We did not think about what we were breathing in. There was not much in the way of breathing apparatus available, maybe just painters masks.