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Remembering the horrors of 9/11

CSSC coordinator and Coast Guard reservist says the call to serve came soon after the second plane hit

Roger Dames

Roger Dames

— “The environment was just as expected,” he said. “It was cloudy with dust and dirt. The first thing I picked up on was that the people working as first responders didn’t have a lot of the stuff they needed. They had dust masks. We all know that when they built the building, they built it with materials that are not the best things for your lungs.”

Dames began helping members of the Coast Guard get into plastic suits with overalls, respirators and hard hats. The Coast Guard didn’t do much of the digging, he said, but they were more in charge of going in and out to rescue people and provide security around the island.

“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.”

Dames had been in these sorts of situations before, but nothing compared to what he experienced then. Sure, he’d seen his share of death as an Albany City Police crash investigator, but never had he seen so much crying, he said. People were hanging pictures of loved ones they lost in the attacks on the fence. It was also hard to see a building, where he once ate at a restaurant at the top, smoldering in a pile of rubble.

More and more fender benders started to pop up around the ground zero area. Dames said it was a result of many of the people driving under stress and not getting a lot of time off to relax, with some going 70 days without a day off. Dames soon helped develop a stress-related driving course for them to practice on.

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