Retired first responder describes his role in aftermath of 9/11 attacks

Published: Sep. 11, 2019 at 7:24 PM CDT
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HARTSELLE, Ala. (WAFF) - A retired first responder who served our country in New York in the aftermath of 9/11 now lives in Hartselle with his family.

Randy Fox was the supervisor of a chemical company that contracted with the Department of Defense. He was on his way to Long Island for a chemical spill.

"That's when I got the call, probably in the middle of Sunrise Highway, to go to the towers,” Fox said.

By the time Fox and his team got to the World Trade Center, it was already a pile of rubble.

"With Haz Mat One, we did a lot of training with them, they were one of the first that they lost almost 75 percent of their team when tower one fell. So, we more or less stepped in with them,” Fox explained.

He says for nearly two days, every first responder spent their days and nights combing through the rubble of the World Trade Center looking for any signs of life and people who did not survive the attack.

"This was just too much, this was terrible. Women, children and adults, part of the NYPD, EMTs, Metro, you had so many different people, it could be someone cleaning an ash tray on the 80th floor,” Fox said.

Finding life among the ashes was rare.

"They were working on a mound of tears, we were all in tears. We all didn't know what to do, what to think, nothing, but it was joy when you found somebody,” Fox continued.

After the attack there were times Fox's crew faced other life-threatening situations working at what is now Ground Zero.

"The biggest thing was, you're down six floors underground trying to clean up the chemical issues and you got somebody on a bull horn yelling evacuate now evacuate now,” Fox said.

Fox worked at the site for 18 weeks after the attacks.

That was the last time he served as a first responder.

The emotional effects of being at ground zero are never far from the surface.

"I do suffer from PTSD, 9/11 is rough, like right now I can feel my heart pounding. That's like every September,” Fox said.

It took him years to be able to go back to the site itself.

"I went to the tower grounds and I started having, I couldn't even make it. I hit canal street and I had to pull over. I started having flashbacks and I was done,” Fox said.

Fox says he wants people to understand post-traumatic stress disorder is real and painful.

There are ways you can manage it and get help.

The pain of being in a space where people were attacked and lost their lives can be managed but never forgotten.

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