Smoke billows from the North and South Towers of the World Trade Center before they collapsed on September 11, 2001 in New York, NY - Sputnik International, 1920, 09.09.2021
9/11: 20 Years Later
On 11 September 2001, 19 al-Qaeda terrorists hijacked and crashed four passenger jets, destroying the World Trade Centre towers in New York and damaging the Pentagon. The attack killed almost 3,000 people and injured 25,000, prompting the launch of US-led military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Recall 9/11 on 20th Anniversary: Firefighter Remembers Day That Changed His Life Forever

© AP Photo / AMY SANCETTASmoke billows from the North and South Towers of the World Trade Center before they collapsed on September 11, 2001 in New York, NY
Smoke billows from the North and South Towers of the World Trade Center before they collapsed on September 11, 2001 in New York, NY - Sputnik International, 1920, 11.09.2021
WASHINGTON, September 11 (Sputnik) - Tuesday, September 11, 20 years ago became the black day for the whole of humanity which divided the lives of the majority of Americans into two parts – before and after.
Back then, Al Qaeda (terrorist group, banned in Russia) terrorists crashed two hijacked commercial planes in the twin towers of the World Trade Center (WTC) in New York. The third plane hit the Pentagon near Washington, while the fourth hijacked plane fell down in the state of Pennsylvania. Nearly 3,000 people were killed that day and over 25,000 were injured.
A detainee from Afghanistan is led by military police with his hands chained at Camp X-Ray at the U.S. Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in this Feb. 2, 2002, file photo - Sputnik International, 1920, 09.09.2021
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According to a recent poll released ahead of the anniversary, nearly two-thirds of US adults say 9/11 permanently changed life in the country, the highest level recorded in two decades.
As the reports about the attacks started emerging, thousands of search and rescue workers were rushed to Ground Zero and Greg Hess, a member of the Indianapolis Fire Department, was one of them. He was a member of the Indiana Task Force-1 The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Search and Rescue team that traveled to the scene. His team arrived in New York 16 hours after the second tower fell and remained on the scene for eight days.
"The feelings were of utter amazement that there could still be surviving people under the debris. Of course, all the time wondering how were we going to get to them," he told Sputnik when asked about his first feeling when he arrived at the scene.
The job of their team was to assist the remaining rescue personnel. Hess explained that his team was specialized in heavy rescue, rope rescue, confined space rescue and water rescue among other things.
"The most tense time was every moment. We never knew if or when things might change. Especially wondering if the debris pile was going to shift. Plus, there were still fires burning," he recalled.
According to Hess, the disaster affected everyone worldwide and it indeed changed how everyone goes about their lives every day. He admitted that since he was a firefighter and paramedic, he managed to cope with the emotional effects, but "it was still overwhelming."
A US flag hanging from a steel girder, damaged in the 11 September 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center, blows in the breeze at a memorial in Jersey City, New Jersey on 11 September 2019. - Sputnik International, 1920, 06.09.2021
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The dust from the attacks suffused the air of Lower Manhattan with millions of tonnes of construction debris, asbestos, and glass, as well as such chemicals as lead and mercury. The contaminants are known to trigger the development of cancer, serious respiratory illnesses, heart and kidney damage, and other diseases in the human body. Nearly 10,000 first responders and people who were close to the WTC on the day of the attacks have been diagnosed with cancer.
Hess was one of those affected by the consequences of the tragedy. In 2007, he was diagnosed with Stage 3A Colon cancer, which was directly related to his exposures at Ground Zero. Of the 62 members of Task Force 1, twenty-six people have come down with various illnesses from Ground Zero and four have died from their illness.
"They have identified 68 different types of cancer in first responders. As of October 2019, more first responders have died from their exposures than victims on 9/11. So the long term effects of 9/11 keep growing and growing," Hess, who spearheaded the project to build the 9/11 Memorial in Indianapolis, concluded.
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