NEW YORK—Retired New York police officer Kieran Breen is still full of emotion when he talks about the tragedy of 9/11—the deadliest attack on American soil since Japan bombed Pearl Harbor in World War II.
Nearly 3,000 people died when hijacked planes hit the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. The vast majority perished when the Twin Towers in Lower
Manhattan collapsed as rescue workers rushed to the scene. Over 400 first responders were among the victims.
On that day, Breen was part of what he originally thought were going to be rescue and recovery efforts.
“Unfortunately, there weren’t too many to rescue. There was almost no recovery from the beginning,” he said, standing at Ground Zero for this year’s memorial service.
“I’m angry. And hopeful—as I was in 2001. I was here that day.”
Every year, memorial services held at Ground Zero are a time of high emotion for many, as they remember lost friends, family members, and colleagues.
Breen worries, however, that as time goes by, some people are starting to forget.
“I think over 17 years, people have forgotten. It’s sad. But luckily, I come down here and remind myself that [other] people don’t forget also,” he said.
“They should remember every day that people sacrificed down here. That there are some people that [were] just going about their daily business, they were taken away from us. … They were vaporized, and people forget what that is.”
“I‘ve come down here to pray, and remember those souls. Somebody I was with that day, I will never see again.
“We all act differently. This year I was able to come down. Some years I’m just not able to do it—just emotional. I figured, I’ll come down this year if I’m up to it. Just pray for them.”
Serviceman Who Lost Brother Wants 9/11 to Be Holiday
Retired serviceman Douglas Hersch has visited Ground Zero every year on the anniversary of the terror attacks.
“I’ve been here for 17 years. The feeling is the same always. I miss my brother, I miss the people taken away from everybody. I come to awakening of this terrible tragedy that took place. And hope that people will always remember.”
“I lost my brother, he was everything to me… and now I can only think of him.”
On that day, Hersch was up on 98th Street when he heard that a plane hit one of the towers.
“I thought it was just a small plane. And then the second radio information I got, a second plane hit the second building.
“It’s terrorists ! It has to be terrorists,” he recalls thinking.
“I never expected the buildings to come down. It’s hard to believe how they came down. I see it. I have it on tape. It just doesn’t make sense,” he said.
“I hope [people] will remember. This day should be considered a holiday. More people would come and see what happened.
“A lot of people would like to be here. Family members would like to be here, but they have to work. It just should be a federal holiday.”