20 Years Later: Ohio Task Force 1 members recall responding to Ground Zero after 9/11 attacks

BEAVERCREEK — Across the country, millions of Americans are remembering and paying tribute to the lives lost and those forever changed by the 9/11 terrorist attacks. In the Miami Valley, two members of Ohio Task Force 1 remember their work in the aftermath of the attacks 20 years ago.

OHTF1 members gathered to pay tribute at the 9/11 memorial in Beavercreek on Saturday, where a part of the World Trade Center is on display. OHTF1 members Gene Thomas and Doug Cope told News Center 7 how they remember responding to New York City after it was clear the United States was under attack.

“Sometimes it seems like it was yesterday we were there, other times it seems like it was a hundred years ago all at the same time,” Cope said.

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Cope said the size of Ground Zero was “unbelievable.” Thomas said everything about the scene, from the smell to the smoke, was indescribable.

“I probably never will be able to find the words to describe that,” Thomas said.

OHTF1 spent nine days in New York City after 9/11, recovering victims and fallen firefighters. Cope recalled the immense, dangerous and emotional work they and other responders did 20 years ago.

“A lot of climbing. A lot of balancing, walking across balance beams,” Cope said.

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Thomas said their work on Ground Zero helped to give some families closure as thousands faced uncertainty and grief. In that traumatic time, Thomas and Cope remembered the compassion and strength of those families.

“They were so kind. I think they would have allowed me to stay in their house and give me their wallet if I asked for it,” Thomas said.

Cope said while they were there to try and help them, the families, in turn, were helping them.

Now 20 years later, Thomas said the events of 9/11 and his time on Ground Zero was “one of the most profound events” of his life.

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