HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — In an exhibit dedicated to September 11, 2001, and those who responded to New York City, including Pa. Task Force 1, that’s where one member shared his memories of that tragic time in American History.
“It was kind of surreal. Sat there I was watching Good Morning America and Charlie Gibson said a plane just went into the World Trade Center,” George Drees, Pa. Task Force 1 and Susquehanna Township Fire Marshall, said. “A second plane hit several minutes later.”
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When Pa. Task Force 1 was activated, Drees was a member of the search and rescue team that would respond to the worst attack in our homeland’s history.
“We traveled as far as the New Jersey Turnpike. We were held up by the FBI that said we couldn’t go through the tunnel because there was a chance there were bombs in the tunnel. We sat there and literally looked across the waterway and could see the lower side of Manhattan on fire,” Drees said. “It was excruciating. It was the worst helpless feeling ever.”
Then, the team finally got into the city. Upon arrival, Dress saw John O’Connel, from Rescue 3, who he knew from training.
“I walked in, he was in the bathroom covered full of dust,” Drees said. “I asked what’s it like and he said, ‘They are gone,’ and that was it it was just that million-mile stare that kind of set the stage for what we were getting into.”
Once at the site, “we checked void spaces, we were literally 60 feet below the ground and 60 feet plus in the air looking for a pocket, a cavity where somebody could survive,” Drees said. The task force spent days searching until its somber return to Harrisburg.
“When I heard Kate Smith playing God Bless America on the radio driving home, I had to pull over and cry,” Drees said. “When you came back, and you saw the yellow ribbons and the pride in America.”
On the 20th anniversary, Drees remembers the strength of America from the World Trade Center to the Pentagon and Shanksville.
“If you take the whole attack on America and you look at that, we have so many people that were brave that day outside of the scope of what they were supposed to be doing,” Drees said. “We had people at the Pentagon that sacrificed just by running into the problem trying to get their people out and they are not firefighters.”
It is an event that will remain very personal for Drees.
“Everybody on Shanksville on flight 93 I have a friend of mine’s daughter who was killed. It’s very personal to me,” Drees said. “So the amount of courage that was expended in that 24-hour period was phenomenal so much more than the people who are trained to do their jobs.”