Over nine hours later after the towers came down, I was finally giving orders to suit up and wear the necessary gear to assist in search and rescue. We had to go through one step at a time to gather what we needed from tables that were lined up side by side.
Gloves, boots, mask, protective glasses, flash lights, construction helmets and most of all….shovels. We all worked in groups with either a Lieutenant or Sargent leading the way. We all had to sign off on two-way radios should we separate for any reason and updates from the main staging area for the Port Authority Police.
Once we were ready we all started walking just a few city blocks south to the World Trade Center, or what would be known as Ground Zero, the ground was getting thicker and thicker with white powder that almost look like a dry snow.
I remember stopping for a couple of seconds to look closer and for some reason I had to touch it without gloves….it felt like baby powder to me with a smell to it that I couldn’t describe. Then I did something I have no reason why.
I made an imprint with my boots on an area that wasn’t disturbed by the many foot prints that have walk this path down the West Side Highway and thought of the words spoken by Neil Armstrong…I small step for Man, one giant leap for Mankind.
That’s what I was thinking at that very moment as if time just stood still and only me holding the powdery substance that was left behind from the two steel giants that once stood towering over the Manhattan skyline…then I heard a distant voice that seem to get louder as my thoughts started to fade away….Ashton let’s go.
I just looked around and was bracing myself what I was about to see as we got closer to the site. The streets were silent and no one was talking. As we looked around, the building above us all look like they were breathing…I can’t describe it any other way.
It was dark for a couple of blocks till we started hearing generators for the lights that were being installed all around the perimeter where the towers fell. Then we all stopped just yards away from where the towers once stood and all we saw was smoke from fires still burning since the morning.
Hundreds if not thousands of rescue workers and civilians all lined up on the mountain of steel, passing to each other buckets filled with debris from the Police and Fire Fighters digging in search of anyone that might still be alive underneath all that ruble.
That night there were only two fellow officers from my department that were found alive…and that gave us all hope that there will be more. But as the hours passed and days come and gone, that wasn’t the case anymore. This Search and Rescue had now become Search and Recovery.