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Transcript: The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, 9/8/21

Guests: Ruth Sergel, Michael McMullen, Claire Beckman, Wilton Sekzer, James Barrett, Joanne Capestro, Flo Fox, Elizabeth Regensburger, Lisa Knappen


Memory Box: Echoes of 9/11 is a documentary film about the events of September 11, 2001 where people recount their stories.



RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: -- after you watch it, stick around afterwards for a conversation moderated by my colleague, Jonathan Capehart. Memory Box, it is a remarkable thing. It is commercial free, right here starting right now.

UNKNOWN: Wait for second. Okay, good.

UNKNOWN: One, two, three, four --

UNKNOWN: Anyway, just hit the red button and it will start the camera. Oh, it did started.

UNKNOWN: It did start.

UNKNOWN: It`s not going to light up.

UNKNOWN: No, not yet. So, why don`t we just start from the beginning and I`m going to shut the door and then when you`re ready, you push go.


UNKNOWN: Okay. Thanks.

UNKNOWN: Yeah, this is difficult.

MICHAEL MCMULLEN: Hello. My name is Michael McMullen and I was speaking to you on January 17th inside of a plywood box here to relate my recollections of 9/11. I mean, obviously it`s very unresolved for me.

TEXT: In the aftermath of the September 1 attacks, the artist Ruth Sergel built a wooden video booth.

RUTH SERGEL, ARTIST: I could see the damage being done to people, but they couldn`t tell their own story in their own words. It was just plane, plane, planes, building down, building down. There was absolutely no space for a more complicated stories about what people actually felt.

UNKNOWN: So this is it.

UNKNOWN: Well, go check to see. I just clicked it. Go check to see if it went up.

SERGEL: So we wanted to bust open space for that.

UNKNOWN: As you can see, we`re in action.

TEXT: She took the booth to New York, Shanksville, PA and the Pentagon and invited people to record their story.

SERGEL: Once people went inside the booths, they controlled the recording. They controlled their own story.


TEXT: Hundreds came.

SERGEL: It became absolutely clear that this really was a very shattered experience with a lot of feeling and emotion behind it.

UNKNOWN: I`m just not --

SERGEL: And our purpose was to capture exactly that, to tell the personal truth of what 9/11 was.

UNKNOWN: Okay. Red lights on. I guess this is working.

TEXT: These stories have never been told together. Until now.

TEXT: Memory Box. Echoes of 9/11

UNKNOWN: What the hell was that?

UNKNOWN: The Trade Center, Trade Center!

UNKNOWN: Oh my god. Oh my god. Oh my god.

CLAIRE BECKMAN: So, my husband and I had decided that we were going to take the morning to do some errands and have breakfast together.

TEXT: New York.

BECKMAN: And so we dropped our daughter off at school. I came down the stairs from the school and my husband was talking to a stranger. And he had a page from a paperback novel in his hand, and the edges were burnt.


And I said, what`s that? And he said look over there.

UNKNOWN: Oh my god! What is up with that?

UNKNOWN: We`re getting (inaudible) tower number one is on fire. (Inaudible).

WILTON SEKZER: My first thought was, is that the building that my son works in? Because if that was his building, my son was in a lot of trouble because the smoke was up high and my son worked on the 105th floor.

UNKNOWN: Jesus Christ.

SEKZER: I remember holding up my hand to the building and trying somehow to count down the number of floors from the top of the building. And I said to myself, how can he guest past that fire?

JAMES BARRETT: It was just horrible. It was bleeding. The building was bleeding into the sky.

DINO FRATTO: I said to myself this doesn`t feel good. There`s something terribly wrong, there`s people up there.


JOANNE CAPESTRO: I was on the 87th floor and I didn`t know what hit us. I mean, we thought it was an earthquake and we shook so strong. It was that - - the shake was so strong that we thought we were just going to tilt right over in the water beneath us.

UNKNOWN: I heard something come overhead and you can hear or it sounded like a plane was in distress. You heard it going -- like it was in trouble.

CAPESTRO: I said, Steve, what is that smell? And he goes, I don`t know. It smells like gas. He says it smells like fuel, maybe it was a plane. That`s when I started to cry, started to panic. What are we going to do?

FLO FOX: Hi. My name is Flo Fox and I`m a photographer. I began shooting pictures in 1972 every day. Once in 1973 I went downtown and I said what is this building going on? The guard said, "What are you doing here?" And I held the strap to my camera and I said I`m here to photograph the building. So I flirted and rubbed his arm and said, come on, keep me company. And he did.

Then I proceeded to photograph whatever I saw. When we got to the roof, I said, wow, if I lean over the edge, can you hold my legs so I won`t fall over? He said of course. And I leaned over, took one vertical and then I went, oh! As I looked down deep, I realized it went down for eternity. So, those are shots that now seem to be so important. That`s it.

UNKNOWN: And a breaking news story to tell you about apparently a plane has crashed into the World Trade Center here in New York City. It happened just --

ELIZABETH REGENSBURGER: So my mother got on the phone. And she lived just across the street from the World Trade Center. Come over here, did you put your T.V. on? Do you know what`s happening? And I said no. And she said, oh my god, and she was crying hysterically. And I was like, mom, what`s going on? And my brother said don`t tell her, don`t tell her, tell her to come here now.

UNKNOWN: Let`s go, people! Across the street!

UNKNOWN: People say that it`s chaos down there on the scene and eyewitness say that this plane actually seems to be in the building.

UNKNOWN: Can the plane -- I can`t --


REGENSBURGER: At this point I thought, oh, this is just a fire, you know, that`s not so bad. There will be scaffolding on the World Trade Center for years and they`ll fix it. But then I saw my dad on the sidewalk and he turned around and he was crying. I knew. He was hysterical. I`ve never really seen my dad cry.

And he`s -- he was (inaudible). Oh my god, they were just going to work like I go to work. They were just going to work today.

CAPESTRO: I took off my shoes because everybody knows that Jojo wears shoes, high heels all the time, I`m known for it. So what I did was I took off my shoes and I rolled up my pants and I put my sweater around my waist and we all got together and we all crawled through the debris, smoke. But when you looked at the other side of the floor, all you saw was a black hole.

UNKNOWN: Police operator, where is your emergency? Okay, Carissa (ph), you`re trapped on what floor? The hallway is blocked? Hello, sir? Hello? Hello?

SEKZER: Realizing that you`re helpless is a terrible thing for a parent. I mean, that`s my son, my perfect son. Maybe he`ll go up to the roof, helicopters will save him. Maybe he`s already escaped, but he must have gone past that fire because he`s alive and he`s going to come out to me. And it`s a story that we`ll tell to each other and to his children, my grandchildren, in the future.

LISA KNAPPEN: Hi, my name is Lisa Knappen. Today is September 10, 2002. I basically spent the past 364 days trying to avoid what happened. Just because I`m not ready and I thought maybe this would be the best way to do it. So, this is kind of a therapy for me, as much as it is, you know, telling my story.

With all the debris falling, one of the guys at my desk grabbed me, he`s like, "let`s go, let`s get out of here." But then it dawned on me that my friend, Lindsey Moorehouse (ph), one of my best friends from school was in the second tower on the 89th floor. She`s got to be okay. Obviously she`s got to be okay because no way anything bad could ever happen to anybody who I know. But stupidly I left my cell phone on my desk, and so I didn`t know how to get in touch with her.

UNKNOWN: Oh, no!

UNKNOWN: Oh my god!

UNKNOWN: A second airplane, a 727, just rammed into the building.

KATIE WEISBERGER: I remember understanding that it was terrorism at that moment, but I just -- I think I was just in such shock that I didn`t feel any pain. I didn`t understand the significance.

JAMESON GONG: I grabbed my camera, got my videotape, went outside my building. I could not believe it. It`s kind of funny to have this analogy but like the "Star Wars" movie, when Obi-Wan Kenobi heard the planet exploding in the beginning and he said something like, you heard the voices of knowing people who perished. And I -- that loud explosion, I really felt like the voices of all those lives.

SANDRA CAMPBELL: I kept saying over and over I`m scared, I`m scared. I mean, I was born and raised in Philadelphia, in the ghetto.


So I thought I was a tough cookie. I really did. I really thought I was a tough person. I could handle anything. But I realized just how much I couldn`t handle.

BARBARA GRAJEWSKI: In the air you could feel the reality of it. It was just so very apparent AND that the world had changed.

GLORIA JACOBS: What shocks me now is that I could have lived 54 years and not understood how instantaneously things can change and how suddenly just in an instant life is gone and that you go from a moment of just this extraordinary beauty to this extraordinary horror and terror and ugliness.

JAY MANIS: It flipped me into a different sort of consciousness about where I was in the world. Suddenly I wasn`t just in my apartment in some neighborhood in New York City. Suddenly, I was witnessing some colossal, terrifying process of being in the world.

KNAPPEN: I guess maybe now getting this off my chest, I`m a little more willing to talk about things and to face what happened and to come to terms with Lindsey`s (ph) death, but I just can`t get over the fact that she`s gone because it`s just -- it`s too much to think about and what happened that day is still too much for me to think about. So, yeah. I guess that`s it.

UNKNOWN: Okay, this, unfortunately, is typical. It`s only in the movies that you get the advanced warnings.

UNKNOWN: I`m sorry to interrupt you, but (inaudible) has some new information at the Pentagon now. Nick, are you there?

UNKNOWN: Well, according to U.S. intelligence officials, Katie, they had no early indications that anything of this nature could have --

SHEILA MOODY: It was my first day here at the Pentagon. I had brought a few personal items with me that day. I brought my bible, I brought my Palm Pilot. I brought a novel to read during lunchtime. And then I stopped at one of the --

TEXT: Pentagon. Recorded January 2003

KATHY DILLABER: I went to go meet my younger sister, Patty, at the center of intelligence in the center of the Pentagon. And we talked for a while and we joked. And then we also mentioned the uncomfortableness about what was going on in New York that day. And I remember thinking at one point, oh, let`s go shopping. Let`s get out of here, but too realistic and too dedicated to our work to do that.

UNKNOWN: Pentagon officials are scrambling to determine what course of action, if any, the U.S. military would take.

SHEREE WEATHERS: I said, gosh, if this is terrorism, they are going to hit the Pentagon. Staff Sergeant Weathers, you`re crazy. There`s no way that`s going to happen. Not the Pentagon. Nobody can get to the Pentagon. No way, no how, it`s not going to happen. Boom! Everyone, literally, lost their mind.

UNKNOWN: Right now we have an airplane that crashed into the Pentagon.

UNKNOWN: Get back, get back!

KENNY COX: We began to rush out, but as I was going out, something in my mind as clear as a bell said go back.

CHRISTOPHER BRAMAN: I could feel the heat going in. All I had was a t- shirt, an undershirt that I ripped off and put around my face.

COX: We ran into the metal doors out there and broke the doors down and went in as far as we could go in.

ROBERT GRUNEWALD: You could hear that the fire above you crackling and you could know the smoke was around you because you couldn`t see.

UNKNOWN: Go ahead.

UNKNOWN: Command, we`re getting reports of people trapped.

MOODY: A burst of burning debris from the ceiling fell and landed on my hands.


And I shook my hands and I got up out of my chair and I started to look around. Everything around me was on fire. The smoke and the fumes just started to take my breath away and I started to cough and choke. And at that point, I just really believed that my life was going to end at that point and I cried out to Jesus and I asked him to -- to just, Jesus, to just help me, help me get out of this.

And no sooner I spoke those words there was a voice that could I hear through the smoke. "Is there anybody in here?" And I called back to him and I said, yes, we`re here. We`re here. He said, "I can`t see you." I said, I can`t see you either, so but we`re here. Please keep coming. And then I looked up and I could see the silhouette of a figure moving. So I reached out through the smoke and there was a hand reaching back and it grabbed me and it pulled me and tried to help me.

BRAMAN: She explained how she prayed to come out and I told her how I prayed to go in. Dear lord, give me the strength to save this woman`s life. We answered each other`s prayers.

MOODY: God called him to order and put him into action and he did not waver and he did not falter. He stood strong and brave and came forward.

BRAMAN: The Army awarded me the Purple Heart and Soldier`s Medal, the highest medal for valor given during peacetime. I told them I didn`t want the medals. My reward was when Sheila told me I was her guardian angel.

MOODY: God is just an awesome wonder and it`s still to this day and will forever be a miracle to me that I am still alive.

DONALD BYRD: My name is Donald Byrd. I`m a choreographer living here in New York City. While I was watching what I thought was debris falling out of the building, -- it crossed my mind that it was people and that was unbelievable to me that it might be people that was -- people that were falling out or jumping out of the building. And so I got a pair of binoculars to verify it. And what I saw were people holding each other and then leaning forward and falling out of the building. And the thing that struck me was -- was that they didn`t struggle.

SEKZER: I said to myself this just can`t be happening. I have to step back and I have to run and leap and bang my head into a wall to come out of the most horrific nightmare I`ve ever experienced. This can`t be true.

BARRETT: It was just too much. It was the sadness and the grief and a very deep sense of sadness and the mystery of it all. And I sat on a bench and I just sobbed for a while.

BYRD: And I just hated the people who had flown the planes into the building because they had forced people to make an impossible decision. Either the fire or falling.


UNKNOWN: Evacuate the building. Evacuate the building.

DONN MARSHALL: I just drove like a bat out of hell to get as close to the Pentagon as I could, to get to the day-care because I knew that Shelly would meet me there and we`d get the kids out. And I pulled over and I ran down there and I found the kids and that was the happiest moment of my life. And, you know, right there turning on a dime, it became the worst moment of my life because I knew Shelly would have been there if she could have.

DILLABER: I kept telling people look for Patty, look for Patty, she`s wearing a red dress. She`s a smaller version of me. But I didn`t want to show too much fear, so I kept looking around for her. I thought don`t (ph), think positive because you`re going to find her sometime this afternoon or this evening. It`s very, very confusing here.

MARSHALL: I was just hoping I would recognize her shape because everybody was so bundled up that was coming out. And I was looking around there and I didn`t see anything. I just felt like I would know when I was near her. I just kept going, kept looking. And the wind was blowing in my face, and I thought of that letter from the civil war, the Sullivan Ballou letter where he tells his wife that if he dies in battle, that he`ll come back and be the breeze against her cheek. And I remember talking just to the breeze and telling Shelly, you know, if that`s you, you go back and you wait because we`re coming to get you.

UNKNOWN: We are living through a day, the 11th September, 2001, that we will be dealing with for a good long time in our lives and our children as well in their own lives.

ALEXANDER SHULAN: My headmaster said this was not a fire drill and that it was a terrorist attack. I mean, I never felt so scared in my entire life. I mean, during that day I was only scared to a certain point. I wasn`t scared that something happened and I was going to die. I wasn`t scared of me dying. I was scared of my parents dying.

ABIGAIL MCDONALD: I remember seeing a boy on my way to my next class. He`s one of the really popular boys, you know, the ones you expect to see a smile on his face, nothing`s wrong. But that day he was crying hysterically. And all I wanted to do was go up to him and give him a hug. So I did. I had no idea what was wrong. All I know is that he needed someone and I was there for him on that day.

UNKNOWN: -- terror attack that has ever taken place in the world. Only a very small handful of terror groups is on that list and at the top is Osama bin Laden.

DAISY KHAN: The phone started ringing. My husband is a very prominent scholar and we are Muslims. And we realized at that very moment our life was about to change because not only do we have to grieve for what has happened and feel the sorrow for all of victims. We now have to go on this defensive, to defend our faith. And this is a very big burden. But I feel this event is going to reshape the world into a better place, you know, and we will gain something from it but we have to be patient.

UNKNOWN: I`m sorry, you got to go. Go.

UNKNOWN: Let`s go! Gentlemen, let`s go!

REGENSBURGER: At this point I looked at my mom and my family and I was like this is crazy. Let`s get out of here, let`s go, you know.

I thought we should just maybe start walking away from the World Trade Center because what if it fell. And I said that and everybody started to calm me down.

My neighbors said, "Oh honey, don`t get upset. You`re pregnant, you know. You`re really close to your due date. Now, it`s not going to fall. I know you say it`s going to fall. They`re going to fall.

And then my dad, he said -- I`m going to put her on the floor. Just give me a second.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I could actually feel something, something jump inside my body and make me run.

65. 35. 20. You saw the firemen coming up on the left. You saw the fear in their faces.

All of a sudden I saw the light. I was like, wow, there`s a light. And I was like here I go, I`m going out. And as I go out, a cop grabs me and says, miss, you can`t go out there. I says, no, I got to go.

And I fainted on the spot because what I saw was all the devastation, all the jumpers, all the people that jumped. At that point the cop picked me up and he carried me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It going to going to fall.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People cannot stay here. It`s going to fall.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. Move back.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I ran to the corner, and I just dove under a car. When I dove under the car, a priest was with me and he started saying "Hail Mary Full of Grace".

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Holy good Lord, dear God help us. I just said I`m sorry for everything I never got to do and I`m sorry for all that I never was, for the things I didn`t work on, for the evil in me that I didn`t cure. And I loved my life. And I`m sorry I won`t see my baby.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You heard people screaming. You heard the debris hitting the car. And then all of a sudden you didn`t hear a thing.

ISAIAH GAGE: Although my passionate sentiments go out to all of the residents who (INAUDIBLE) will face no normalcy for the rest but nevertheless we must not stress, just go on completing the quest for (INAUDIBLE). Speaking complex rhymes until infinity, mesmerized by the eyes of the peace to come. In my heart is the song and in my soul is the drum. Think of the family that (INAUDIBLE)

ARNULFO CHINO ROJAS: At that moment, I just got down on my knees and I pray in Spanish, you know. Padre nuestro (INAUDIBLE). Please take care of my family. Take care of my wife.

GAGE: Caught up in the memories of the people they love. My prayers and hopes and dreams are with you. And at a time like this, peace is the only thing that is true.

May your loved ones rest in heaven because you know that we`re always going to be remembering the day that there was nothing for us to fear of, the day that we saw nothing but our true heroes.


ROBERT LA ROCCO: I took a (INAUDIBLE) blurted out as loud as I could. If you guys can hear my voice, that your means you`re still alive. What you need to do is every man, get your face out under your shirt now. Come on, do it, do it.

GAGE: True spirits, rising from the earth. What I feel they all wish cannot be reversed. May the terrorists know that they never could defeat itself, the peace that we share and the people who we love. Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We`ll try and talk to some of these guys.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the scene in Lower Manhattan where the upper floors of the World Trade Center Tower One apparently have completely collapsed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- five blocks from the World Trade Center. Can you tell me what you saw, what you heard? You all right?


ERIK TISCHLER: After the first building fell, I had seen enough. I was ready to go home. I thought I would just go home. And then I saw these two women sitting next to each other just, you know, all disheveled and they looked like they were in shock.

And they just -- they weren`t saying anything and they looked like they needed help. So I walked over to them and I told them that I could take them to my parents` home and, you know, my mom would give them clothes and a shower. And they`d call the, you know, people that love them, whoever you know, was missing them. But they didn`t answer.

And then some other people kind of started coming around and I saw that, you know, that these people obviously looked like they knew a lot more about helping than I did. I started backing away and then like I just got this gut feeling to take a picture.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There was a nice Jewish Orthodox boy. He saw me in the street. He wanted to take me home to his mom and let me call my family. And I really, really appreciate that.

TISCHLER: She told me that I kind of changed her life around and, you know, saved her day and these sort of things and I really felt silly because I didn`t do anything really. I just took a few pictures.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I do consider myself so lucky. There were people stuck up there, you know? My father started to call me "Lucky" instead of "Jojo".

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I said, my God, the world is coming to an end. I mean, you knew another one was coming. You just knew it. You couldn`t be human and not be terrified because you didn`t know where the next one was going to hit. And it wasn`t so much me because if the plane hit my building, ok, I`m dead. It was so much of my family, my loved ones. How could I bear the pain? How could I stand the pain of losing them in this kind of way?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Approximately three minutes after 10:00, a great big black cloud just mushroomed right up into the air and it shook the heck out of the house.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: These are the first pictures from Somerset County. This is United Airlines 93. It crashed south of Pittsburgh near the town of Shanksville.

ERNEST STULL, MAYOR, SHANKSVILLE: My name is Ernest Stull. I`m the mayor of the small town of Shanksville. I cannot stress that we do not mind the publicity. We just hate the way it happened. We did not want 40 people to be killed to put our little town on the map.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Three, two, one. PA state police tell us the crash scene up close looks like a scrap yard leaving the crew and passengers unidentifiable.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ok, I show all day work students assigned to this call.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are there any identifiable pieces of that plane back in the tree line?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There`s nothing but debris. Just small pieces of metal and aluminum and (INAUDIBLE).


AJ DEVINE: I couldn`t compute what I was seeing. It just didn`t seem real.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right now the Pennsylvania state police have secured the crash scene.

DEVINE: I just wanted to know what happened, how it could have happened, why it happened. Specifically because I am an airline pilot, I fly 737- 800s.

I would put myself in the cockpit and replay the different scenarios my mind and it was kind of a frightening experience because based on how we`re trained, we`re always supposed to de-escalate the situation and try not to fight if that`s not possible.

So I`m sure the pilots did not have a chance. They did not know what was happening. They did not know what was coming. And I`m sure that they were executed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a massively well-coordinated attack that is nothing short of a declaration of war on this country.

DEVINE: Another issue is I`m also in the military. I`m in the Navy reserves. So I`m not sure at the moment, but am I going to be called up to fight or not? Am I going to have to help protect our country?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The rescue workers said we need stretcher bearers. So I just ran and picked up a stretcher and headed further inside the security perimeter. I found myself looking at the door that led down the corridor to Shelly`s office. And there was smoke coming out and, you know, the thing was still burning and everything.

You know, I stayed and I didn`t have a choice. I knew that if she was in there and she was alive, she was expecting me to come get her.

JOSEPH FENGLER: We gathered people at work -- colonels, majors, specialists. We pulled people out of smokey rooms. We carried the wounded. We tried prying open doors with our hands because people were trapped behind them, pounding.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And we were going to the sounds and then all at once you could hear no sounds anymore.

JEFFREY DOUGLASS: So many people who were trained and prepared to help someone, to do something, were at a complete loss.

GERRY KITZHABER: You almost felt numb at the time. You don`t know what to feel. It was just horrific.

FENGLER: I don`t think we`ll ever forget that pounding on a door or scream from someone who we couldn`t get to.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Radio one to command. We have had structural collapse on the heliport side.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right there I realized how important serving my country is. I have a son and any time I`m called to duty to go fight in any country, I will give my life for him.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I kept going I just can`t believe this. This can`t be happening. Please not Patty. She was the catalyst for our family. She was the one who would bring all of us together.

On my down days, I have to think that she`s there watching me and pushing me and saying keep going, keep going. I miss her so much. I, again, thank you for this opportunity.


MICHEAL MCMULLIN: Apparently the pilot who flew the plane into the Pentagon, he was among us for a couple of years. How could he be in our culture and walk amongst us and be with us and not fall in love with any of us. I mean, it`s beyond my mentality.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The concern right now is that the other building may come down. They`ve obviously evacuated that whole area because of the crash of One World Trade Center. Now I`m told that there`s concern about the second one collapsing as well. Plainly there`s been an enormous amount of structural damage.

MARY ADAMS: My name is Mary Adams, and today is August 16th, 2002.

It going to -- it`s going down one of the (INAUDIBLE) where it happened. You know what I mean?

I talked a lot after September 11th about September 11th but not so much about my brother Charlie Murphy, who was on the 105th floor and worked for Kanter.

There it goes, it`s going. It going down now, it`s going down now. there It`s collapsing.

Oh. Oh, those poor people. Oh God.

When the North Tower fell, I just couldn`t believe it. I just fell almost at the same time just down to my knees. It was -- you know, at that moment I felt like I knew that Charlie was gone.

You know, but a minute later I began to really believe that he was still alive and we just went into default mode, default mode of like trying to find Charlie and where he would be.

And then I heard that maybe there were a whole bunch of guys from Kanter still alive underground and they had contacted people. And I grabbed on to that like, ok, you know, like this is definitely true.

We were there for three days and calling and looking and following every possibility. My brother`s like a hero in our family. Just this big, jovial, full of life guy who was really coming into his own. He was in love and very happy and soon to be married.

So my husband had been working down at Ground Zero, and I remember we had the air conditioning on and I had finally put the kids to bed and we sat in the living room and I cracked a beer, you know, having slept, you know, just a few hours here or there and we just sat down in this cold room and I drank a cold beer.

And he said, Mary, you know, they`re not going to find anybody alive. You know, he said I saw it. There`s nobody. He said Charlie`s dead. But I said a prayer with him, you know, and it felt so good to finally have some kind of answer.

You know, everybody knows this but what a tremendous loss of so many, you know, great, great people. How foolish.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We can see New York City and the smoke. Our prayers and thoughts go out to all the people there and everywhere else. Here I`m looking up and down the East Coast.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This has been one of the darkest days in America. Even nine -- more than nine hours now after this disaster began, officials do not know how many people were killed, how many still are trapped in all the rubble.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At 6:00 they disbanded. And somebody said, look, the old guard is going to come down from Fort Meyer and take over the stretcher duties here. You all are free to go.

And then I was stuck in a quandary. Should I stay there and try and get inside and find Shelly and possibly die or go home and be with the kids and leave her there?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I still don`t know if I made the right choice. But I went home. I figured they needed one parent at their side. They were confused. They were wondering what was going on.

So I went home.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Welcome to "TODAY" on this Wednesday morning, the morning people are waking in disbelief with heavy hearts, especially those with lost loved ones or who are uncertain where their loved ones are.

DR. ROBERT LAHITA: On the morning of the 12th, I hopped on a police launch with two of my paramedics that went over to Ground Zero. We were hoping beyond hope that we would see someone that we would be able to save.

But it was a ghost town. The most surreal thing I have ever seen in my life. There were body parts everywhere. There was clothing in the trees and the stench was somewhat nauseating. I had smelled it before at the morgue but this was overwhelming.

What was most heartening were the volunteers. Just thousands of people. They would say, I`m from Cincinnati. I`m from Miami. I`m from Maine, firemen, police. There were just rounds of applause for these people who came from everywhere from our great country to help with the rescue.

I remember talking to a construction guy. And I said, who are you and why are you here? He said I`m an American. I have to do this.

FAITH LEIBOW: There was no day and there was no night. And there was no time for us to leave. We just stayed there and helped in this war zone.

People would walk by, total strangers, and just touch each other. Because you needed to feel life.

LAURA CARROTTI: I would just do loops. Just going in and out of the blocks with great jugs coffee and sugar and milk. It got to the point where we realized that like the guys were waiting for us, you know. They were like so grateful.

RIX PARKER: I used to be an EMT. I wanted to help any way I could. I climbed through holes and little crevices all over the freaking hill. There were just so many weird things.

It was (INAUDIBLE) a morgue, it was a triage center, it was food, it was a bathroom, it was a massage tent. I mean I carried bodies, parts of bodies, whatever. I never felt so helpless.

CARROTTI: These guys, these grown men, they would come in and they would sit down and they would just tell you these stories of what they had been through that day and what they`d seen.

LEIBOW: The buckets. The buckets were the things I couldn`t stand. They would fill the buckets with body parts and leave them at our station.

CARROTTI: You had to hold it together because they were in there to talk to you. And they were in there because they just needed somebody to talk to, to listen to them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What they found of my son, what they call the remains of my son is a bone fragment. Three inches by an inch and a half by half an inch. So we have something of him to bury. It certainly isn`t enough. But it is something.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is a torture that stays with you. And if there are people that can get out from underneath it, God bless them. I know I can`t.

LEIBOW: I always believed that every day should be treasured and that everybody deserves a chance and everybody is equal. I didn`t use the word "hate". I now use it with every fiber of my being and I hate that I do.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: On September 21st, I gave birth to Reagan. It wasn`t anything like I had planned because it was so close to this tragedy. It was totally different. And I feel in certain aspects quite ruined.

DIANE HORNING: I read an account that a man gave about losing his son to a mountain climbing accident and he said that one of the biggest changes for him was that he no longer actively looks for happiness. But if it comes to him unsolicited, he embraces it. And I think that`s what happened to us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Father in heaven --

HORNING: It was in October. The city was having service and it was a very upsetting day. But as we were leaving, we saw these therapy dogs. And we just sat in the middle of the street and started to pet them.

KAREN CANZONERI: As she was petting my dog, she started to cry. She looked at me and she told me that she had lost her son in the World Trade Center.

HORNING: Matthew, we always likened him to a golden retriever puppy. He kind of had the same loyalty, the same --

KURT HORNING: Sloppiness.

D. HORNING: The same table manners. But he just loved dogs.

CANZONERI: My heart just went out to her and I said that I would like to name my new dog after her son Matthew.

D. HORNING: It was our moment of joy, unsolicited. A perfect tribute to him. We`re very grateful.

K. HORNING: That`s it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In the last 90 days, the nation has been consumed by grief, especially those directly affected by the attacks.

TINKA MARKHAM PIPER: In the beginning of October, I got a job with FEMA and it was a one-stop shop relief center where people could come and they could get their food stamps. They could apply for unemployment, childcare, education, you name it.

One afternoon at Christmas time, the waiting room was stuffed to the gills and everyone was so worried about money and the holidays coming up, and the sense of loss -- poignant sense of loss.

And one client I started talking to and she said, I`m a singer and I`ve lost all these gigs and I don`t have any money. And I said, would you mind singing for us? And she said sure. What do you want me to sing?

And she stood up and sang "New York State of Mind". And I`ve never felt the center so hushed and focused and together. It was this amazing moment of resiliency and just the sense of, you know, somehow we`re going to get to a different place.