BOSTON (CBS) – Paul Penachio reflects back to September 11, 2001, “The devastation I saw was absolutely incredible, big piles of dust and twisted steel. Every single day there’s something that reminds me of 9/11.”
The haunting images are constantly on Penachio’s mind and a lasting tribute is forever etched on his right arm. A tattoo reads “last alarm, we will never forget our brothers.” “I’ll never forget, never” said Penachio. He was one of the first rescue specialists on scene at Ground Zero.
He worked what was known as the pile day after day searching for any sign of life along with K-9 coordinator Lee Prentiss and the rest of the Massachusetts Task Force One Team.
WBZ-TV’s Kathy Curran reports
The team’s mission is rescue but the destruction in the wake of the terror attack deemed that mission impossible. Prentiss said, “Emotionally it’s nerve-wracking because I’m working with a canine that’s trained to detect live, human scent. The dog’s not hitting on anything and you know there were thousands of people in these buildings, we were fighting against time.”
Team members always went out to the pile hopeful they were going to find someone but task force leader Mark Foster said by day two or three hope faded. “The sad part was by day two or three we knew there were no more live people in the World Trade Center,” Foster said.
The task force’s mission switched to recovery mode and brought home the remains of many to their loved ones. Ten years later team Leader Mark Foster looks at photos of the devastation and reflects on the moment when he was told his good friend, Ray Downey, who was the NY Fire Chief of Rescue Operations was killed in the collapse. A colleague told him that no-one had heard from Ray and everyone knew he was in the collapse.
A twisted piece of metal that sits outside the task force office is a constant reminder of what was lost during our country’s darkest day. It’s one of the tri-beams from the World Trade Center. A window’s from the 94th floor is also there. Lee Prentiss said it’s kind of amazing that it’s been ten years, “the things I saw down there the first day there, the fifth sixth day there. It’s as clear today as 10 years ago You’ll never forget about it, it’s just burned in the back of your mind.”
A decade has passed but for many on this team what happened on Sept 11th is something they’ll live with for the rest of their lives and take with them wherever they go.