‘We’re under attack’: 9/11 responders in the Carolinas relive the horrors of that day

State - Regional

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW) — It was a Tuesday.

It was a beautiful morning, just like everybody said.

It was an ordinary day.

Twenty years later, three first responders who now live in the eastern Carolinas remain haunted by a day that changed the face of a nation. 

Among the 2,753 people who died at the site of the World Trade Center in New York City, 343 were firefighters, 23 were New York City police officers and 37 were Port Authority officers. In Washington D.C., the attacks left 184 dead. In Pennsylvania, another 40 were killed after passengers launched an uprising against their hijackers with a rally and a “Let’s roll.”

In total, the attacks would leave 2,996 people dead and 25,000 injured.

News13 sat down with three first responders to recall their memories of 9/11, and how they want people to continue to honor that clear and cloudless Tuesday.

Richard Gimbl, FDNY

After getting hurt on a Friday, Gimbl was on medical leave when he turned on the tv and watched the second plane hit.

“I knew I had to go in,” he said. “We all jumped in with our gear and went to ground zero. That’s when the second tower collapsed.”

He lost more men than any other firehouse in the city. Both companies. Squad 288. Hazmat 1.

There’s still questions 20 years later. Why was I saved? Why am I here and all my guys are gone?

“There were tears, there were nightmares at night in the bunk room,” he said. “But us all being together helped us get through this. It’s a bond. It’s a bond that you can’t understand it, and you can’t break it.”

Four days later, he went home. Every bridge was covered in people and flags.

“We can’t let anybody forget all of those areas that were a part of this attack on our soil,” he said.

Troy Hutchinson, Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority Fire Department

Hutchinson looked across the Potomac River and saw smoke spreading across the sky. 

“We were being rerouted to the Pentagon,” he said. “This is the building that protects our nation. And it’s been struck by an airplane of terrorists.”

Then, another thought. If attackers got to the Pentagon, what else could they do?

“The whole day was an up and down day, bodies, everywhere,” he said. 

Afterward, everyone had a flag in their yard.

“This country pulled together and we united so strong,” he said. “Nothing could break it.”

It was a punch in the gut. It was a surprise. It was something he needs people to remember.

“We need people to love our country, to protect our country, and protect each other,” he said. “We need to unite.”

Felix Cruz, NYPD

“When the first plane hit, they told us it was, first, they told us it was an accident,” Cruz said. “We did what everybody else did, was that we turned on the tv. When the second plane hit, that’s when they told us we’re under attack.”

Manhattan looked like a bomb had gone off. It was chaos.

“It was hard on us, going in and out, and seeing the bodies,” he said. “When we started recovering the bodies — it was difficult going into ground zero. The people came together and supported us. And that was the backbone that kept us going. And I’ll never, never forget that feeling.”

It takes him a few hours to put his old uniform on. The memories always come back.

“I used this dress uniform to go to all the funerals,” he said. 

Talk to kids, he urges. Watch the programs. And never, never forget.

“Don’t make that a catchphrase,” he said. “Never forget. It means so much to us that you don’t.”

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