Officials, first responders share 9/11 experiences
A lot can happen in 10 years. People go through so many changes that it's sometimes difficult to remember what happened two weeks ago. So it is significant when nearly everyone remembers a single moment from a decade ago. That single moment took place Sept. 11, 2001, when two planes struck the World Trade Center.
In New Canaan, many police officers, firemen and other officials clearly recall how everything went that day.
"My first thought was a malfunction with a plane and that it was just a terrible accident," Sgt. Carol Ogrinc said of seeing the first plane hit one of the towers. "Then when the second one hit I just had a really eerie feeling that we were under attack."
She said the town was very different that day.
"The whole town was so quiet. I think people were trying to get a hold of all their loved ones. So many people around here worked in the city and it seemed like everyone in town was holding their breath," Ogrinc said.
"At headquarters, we were just waiting around to be called in for anything. We were on edge waiting for what was going to be next. We didn't know what was going to happen and that was the really scary part. We were held over until eight that night. Chief Christopher Lynch wanted us to be on standby since we were getting calls about people not returning home on the train."
During the day, Ogrinc said she drove up to a residence on Oenoke Ridge because she knew the New York skyline was visible from the backyard on clear days.
"It was a clear day and I just remember seeing both towers. The smoke was billowing to the left and I just couldn't believe my eyes," she said. "It was just surreal."
Surreal was a word used by many to describe that day. Police Chief Ed Nadriczny was a captain 10 years ago and used the word surreal to explain what he felt when he saw six officers return from helping out in New York City. They were sent in with disaster equipment to help in the relief effort.
"They came back to the police department and were covered with white dust. It was something you just couldn't miss. It was surreal," Nadriczny said. "They also used the word surreal. They said the streets were empty and gray."
Nadriczny was not in New Canaan early that morning.
"On that particular day, I arrived at the police academy in Meriden for a mandatory training session," he said. "We were immediately told to go into the break room and saw that something terrible had happened in New York. After the second plane hit the towers we immediately were dismissed and returned to New Canaan. I remember going across the Sikorsky Bridge just wondering if there were any other planes out there. At the time, my daughter was still in school in Monroe and I felt obligated to just drive by the building to make sure everything was alright."
Nadriczny said one of the most unique things the police did was to help the New York City employee's assistance program.
"We were asked to transport some of the grief counselors to different precincts in New York City to help those officers deal with the loss of their fellow men and women," Nadriczny said. "That was really something special. Being able to participate in the healing process of all those service people was something I'll never forget."
Another New Canaan official, Dr. David Reed, Director of Health for New Canaan, also went into New York City to try and see what he could do to help.
"I was watching "Good Morning America" with my wife and I saw the plane hit. I immediately called AmeriCares, where I worked for 15 years at the time. I knew they would put something together. They had two crews going down," Reed said.
Reed had a history of helping with disaster relief areas in the Middle East, Africa and other areas around the world, but never in his backyard.
"I ended up driving to Sikorsky airport with some fellow doctors. From there we flew to the East River and landed at a triage center," Reed said. "After that, I asked a cop to take me down closer to see if there was anything else I could do. I actually ended up being half a block from building 7 when it fell down. That was quite an experience. Luckily we were not in any danger but the dust and ash were overwhelming."
Reed said all the abundance of volunteers gave him very little to do medically. But another reason was that, sadly, not too many people made it out of the buildings.
"The truth was, quite a few people did not make it out and those that did make it out were all attended to at St. Vincent's hospital and other areas in the city," Reed said. "The only survivors were found on the periphery."
10 years later, Reed said that experience affected him the most out of all the other disaster situations he had dealt with.
"I've been to a lot of relief missions but never one in my home town. I came home covered in dust. It was very surreal and different experience," Reed said. "I can't believe it's been 10 years. The older you get the faster time goes. Unlike other disasters, these were people who I knew. Many of them were my neighbors and friends."
So while the memory of that day is hard to forget, Reed, Ogrinc, Nadriczny and countless others hope the memory of those lost is everlasting.