COLONIE Roger Dames was first approached about the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, shortly after the first plane hit the North Tower of World Trade Center because a colleague at the Colonie Senior Services Center knew he was a member of the Coast Guard reserves.
Dames, coordinator of the Driver Fitness Center at CSSC, said he figured it was just a small plane that had went awry, but when he watched the second plane hit the South Tower 18 minutes later, he knew that there was something bigger going on. At this point, he was merely waiting for the phone to ring with the call for him to serve his country. At 11 a.m., he got that call.
“It’s a very difficult feeling to describe,” he said of that moment he was asked to head to New York City first thing the next morning. “There was hollowness in my stomach … I probably had the same feeling in 1962 when I got called to go to Guantanamo Bay during the blockade. It’s just hard to describe.”
It wasn’t an easy trip though, as most of Manhattan had been shut down. Dames, a Marine science technician master chief, had to get through different checkpoints by showing his ID card. The Staten Island Expressway was bare except for some local traffic and vehicles that were bringing over the rubble from the buildings to the landfill.
When he got there, Dames said, he could still see some of the smoke rising. He immediately reported in as a commander and was to report only to the admiral at the base. His instructions were to advise the other enlisted people and bring in the reserve forces.
He began finding many of them places to stay and set some of them up in hotels.
He didn’t make it to ground zero until a couple of days after the attacks, but he had heard the Coast Guard was evacuating all of Manhattan, with well over 100,000 residents, to places such as New Jersey.