HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WBTW) — A former New York City first responder spent the day on Monday at St. James Middle School sharing his first-hand experience of 9/11.

Felix Cruz was a member of the NYPD when a plane hit the twin towers 22 years ago.

He said that at the time, it wasn’t something he and his coworkers had been trained for. He added that being an officer didn’t mean they were immune to the devastation that followed.

“We did the best we could. It wasn’t good enough,” Cruz said. “Watching the victims’ family members come back with pictures of the loved ones crying to you.”

“‘Have you seen this person? Have you seen this person?’ What do you say to them?” he said.

For more than a decade, Cruz has given Horry County students a first-hand look at the historic event.

“What it was like to be down there, so the photos are four days after 9/11 and they’re getting a look through my eyes of what I was seeing when I was going through the whole incident, the tragedy,” he said.

He said he doesn’t want the event to be something that’s only remembered in history books. He fears that if it’s forgotten, history could repeat itself.

He said he also wants to remind people of the nation’s response.

“We came together as a country,” Cruz said. “The tragic event that happened, it brought the country together.”

Cruz encourages parents to share where they were and how they felt on Sept. 11, 2001 to make sure we never forget the history of the day, as well as the heroes, those dead and alive.

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Claire Purnell is a multimedia journalist at News13. Claire is from Louisville, Kentucky. Claire joined the News13 team in January 2023 after graduating from the University of Colorado-Boulder in December 2022. Follow Claire on Twitter and read more of her work here.