The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

CNHI Special Projects

August 25, 2011

Emergency responders share stories of survival, heroism

Thousands answered call during nation's tragedy

NEW YORK — It was a beautiful, sunny, 70-degree morning with clear blue skies. Police Capt. Terry Revella (Ret.) of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation was on his way to work at his NYC headquarters when a dispatcher radioed him and said, “Captain, you need to get to the World Trade Center ASAP. A plane just crashed into it.”

On the other end of the country on that same September morning 10 years ago, Debra Tosch was attending a canine search specialist class in Washington state when she heard of the attack. In North Carolina, Greensboro Fire Department Assistant Chief Alan “Skip” Nix was serving as the safety/special operations officer. In the hours and days following the most devastating attack on American soil in modern history, Revella, Tosch and Nix would aid their fellow Americans in their own ways. Their stories and how they are working to remember 9/11 today are below.

The Haunting at Ground Zero

Revella pulled up next to the north tower of the WTC and could see the gaping hole that plane put into its side. The exact outline of the wings and fuselage was visible.

“I met up with one of my officers, Jeff Cox, and we had just started to run up to the north tower when Jeff said, ‘Captain, what are those black dots around the outside of the tower?’” Revella recalls. “I said, ‘They’re people, Jeff.’ He said, ‘No. That can’t be.’”

As people started to jump, one by one, two by two, Revella and Cox could see they were, in fact, hundreds of desperate souls deciding their own fate.

“This moment has remained the most difficult and haunting to me to this day,” Revella says.

Moments later, Revella and Cox were briefly trapped when the south tower collapsed. They were found by a firefighter, then went to work.

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