Former Fort Drum Fire Captain holds back tears reflecting on his experience at Ground Zero

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WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWTI) — “It’s funny I hardly remember things of yesterday, but I can tell you everything that happened 20 years ago on that day,” Former Fort Drum Fire Captain Robert Tennies said.

Saturday, September 11 marks the 20th anniversary of the attacks on the Twin Towers, a day Tennies will never forget. The now retired captain shared his personal experience after traveling down to the site almost 20 years ago.

Tennies said it was difficult to watch firefighters at the scene go into the building and up the stairs knowing the risk they were taking. He said he was too familiar with the thought of possibly not returning home to his loved ones after work, as are many in his profession.

At the time of the attacks Tennies was working part time for Guilfoyle and received a call that night asking if he would be willing to come down to the site and help with the aftermath. Without a second thought he said yes, knowing that his contribution was needed.

Tennies and seven others loaded into two ambulances and drove to New York City where they were assigned to Ground Zero. He said crossing through the gate to the area was a surreal experience.

“There was no noise, there was no traffic, there was nothing,” Tennies recalled.

The retired captain had to hold back his tears while describing arriving the site for the first time.  

“You saw for the first time, just the devastation, you know and it literally just took your breath away,” Tennies said. “You saw it on TV but to see it, and have the smells, and just you know, people just digging to try and save other peoples lives. It was just way overwhelming.”

He said that his experience gave him a new appreciation for life over the past 20 years and hopes the country never goes through an experience like that again.

“Everyday after that was precious,” Tennies said reflecting on the years since the attack. “I pray that it never happens again but yeah it changes your life and make you appreciate the people you love.”

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