Listen to these personal stories ...
Chelsea James
Diane Hunt
Danny Wambolt
Jannay Johnson
Monique Champagne
Kevin Kuczewski
Chelsea James
Diane Hunt
Danny Wambolt
Jannay Johnson
Monique Champagne
Kevin Kuczewski
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We Remember
 
Honored Dead: Victims of 9/11
 
Moments of remembrance on the South Shore and beyond
 
Stories of survival, heroics
 
Taunton man remembers the last day with his wife
 
Have things changed?
 
How attacks affected kids, and how are they now
 
Nationally
 
Brockton native decided how much to give 9/11 families
 
Graphic: Sequence of 9/11 events
Audio interviews and editing for this series were conducted by Cory Hopkins, Diana Schoberg, Ryan Menard, John Kelly, Andrew Lightman and Ken Johnson from The Patriot Ledger, and by Jean Porrazzo, Elaine Allegrini and Craig Murray from The Enterprise.
Site Design: Stephen Ide

 

Voices

‘It made me very angry’

Name: Joseph Gerry
Age: 81
Town: Brockton
Job: owner, Gerry’s Farm in Brockton.

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'It was a real shock, a real shock, and it made me very angry that someone would do something like this. Foolishness — you know I mean someone is absolutely, they're cowards when they do things like this. That's the way I feel about it. Anybody that does something like this is a coward.”
How has 9/11 changed you?
“Well, I don't know if it's changed me. At my age, how can they change me at my age, really? I mean, it upsets me. I feel every religion, I don't care who it is — whether it's their religion, our religion or what — it doesn't preach violence like this, never does. And why they've twisted it and some of the clerics have twisted it and made it so you know you want to kill people — why. We are not here for that. I don't think the guy upstairs meant for us to do that.

‘I was shocked’

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Name: Brendan Fitzgerald
Age: 64
Town: East Bridgewater
Job: deacon, St. John Church, East Bridgewater
'I remember coming to the office and for some reason I put the television on. I don't remember whether I heard it on the radio coming in or not. But I watched the result of the first plane going into the tower. And I would leave the room to do something, or to answer the phone, and I would go back into where the television was. And I happened to be present viewing the television, when the second plane went in. And I know the word 'unbelievable' is used so frequently today that perhaps it has lost its significance. But I just couldn't believe, much less understand, what was being telecast on the television. I was shocked and that shock lasted a long time.
How has 9/11 changed you?
“The overall effect of that just brings home to me the realization that we are not without enemies, this country, and the microcosm size of the world, that we can be attacked. And democracy and freedom is a precious gift that I hold in high esteem and I realize not every nation or country does.”

 

Tough job

Ground zero rescue workers recall the assault on the senses

GREG DERR photos/The Patriot Ledger
Cliff Woodard, a retired Marshfield firefighter who went to ground zero after 9/11, says responders quickly realized that instead of treating the few rescued, they had to treat the many rescuers.


Patriot Ledger staff

Dozens of South Shore residents worked at ground zero in the aftermath of 9/11. They remember the sights and sounds in the rubble, but what they tend to remember most is something they could neither see nor hear.

The smell.

Woodard speaks of his experiences

“The smell of the whole place. If you’ve ever smelled it, you know exactly what it smells like. Just a sweet smell that will never leave you,” said Cliff Woodard, a retired Marshfield firefighter/paramedic who went to New York City on Sept. 11, 2001, in a medical response team organized by FEMA.

“It is the smell of death, and it does not go away,” said the Rev. Richard Monroe, an ordained Roman Catholic deacon at St. Joseph’s Church in Kingston who comforted rescue workers at ground zero and blessed remains found in the wreckage.

There were many South Shore people like Woodard and the Rev. Monroe who traveled to New York five years ago, either with organizations or just on their own, using their skills to do whatever they could to help.

Woodard, 59, who retired as a firefighter in July and still lives in Marshfield, talks of arriving at the scene on the night of Sept. 11 and setting up triage stations.

“Initial reports were that there could be as many as 50,000 people in those towers,” he said, “but we realized pretty soon that it wasn’t going to be a rescue mission. We weren’t going to be treating the victims,” he said.

The mission became one of treating the rescuers, he said, mainly firefighters, “and they wouldn’t report any injuries. They’d work hurt. They were afraid they’d get thrown off the pile if they were injured,” Woodard said.

If a firefighter suffered an injury that might ordinarily call for a trip to a hospital in an ambulance, “they wouldn’t go,” Woodard said. “Once they found out that a lot of us were firefighters, they started coming to us. It’d be, ‘What’s your name?’ ‘John Smith.’ Treat them and turn them loose. That’s all you could do.”

Woodard acknowledges that, for him and other workers, there were some tears.

“You’d see things that people shouldn’t have to see. The carnage. Every few minutes you’d see the firefighters carrying another one of their brothers off the pile. It was hard not to get emotional when you saw that.”

Tony Forgione of Braintree, a nurse at Massachusetts General Hospital, was also with a FEMA disaster medical assistance team at ground zero, mainly treating rescue workers.

“I remember the fear that there would be another attack, especially during the first few days,” Forgione said.

“We set up five medical stations, four on the pile itself. And for every site we set up, there was also an evacuation plan, in case of another attack,” he said.

That memory of fear “is still with me, and will always be there,” he said.

Forgione, 58, has been on other disaster missions, such as for an earthquake in Iran and to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, “but Sept. 11 was an act by people against people, and that is the hardest thing to get over,” he said.

“I don’t think anybody, even if they were the most stoic person or the happiest person, could go to that scene and not come out of there untouched and unaffected,” said James Murphy, a 43-year-old Plymouth County deputy sheriff who was with a FEMA urban search and rescue team dispatched to New York City on the day of the attacks.

The Rev. Monroe, 60, said the experience of being at ground zero was emotionally overwhelming.

“It was a senses overload. It was not just visual, but taste and touch,” he said.

“I spent a week in a morgue. It was just all body parts. Never a human being, just pieces of them. And there was that smell.

“It was just an overload of everything. It just traumatizes you.”

The Rev. Monroe, along with his duties as deacon at St. Joseph’s church, is also the Kingston fire chaplain.

It took a while for the counselor to realize that he needed some counseling himself.

“I thought I could pray it away,” the Rev. Monroe said, “but one day my daughter Maggie, who was 14 then, said, ‘Daddy, there is something wrong with you. Your mustache has turned white.’ I think it was the stress. She noticed.”

It was post-traumatic stress disorder, the Rev. Monroe said.

“I’d stare at the picture on the TV. I know what to look for with firefighters, but I could not see in the mirror,” he said.

“But Maggie said, ‘Daddy, you have to get help, and you have to do it for me.’ And I did. I went to counseling, to just help me deal with it.

“It gave me the authorization to be hurt, and to grieve, and to let it go.”

Five years later, there is still a sense of somber frustration for people who went to ground zero, that despite all of their intentions and efforts, there were so many lives that were lost.

“You’re all ready to do what you’ve trained to do, and thinking you’re going to make a difference,” Woodard said.

“And then, it’s too late.”

Don Conkey may be reached at dconkey@ledger.com.

Inside the towers

Seeing firefighters climb to deaths

As Maura Heidcamp walked down the stairs from the 55th floor of the North Tower, young rescuers were walking up

GREG DERR/The Patriot Ledger
Maura Heidcamp of Plymouth, who escaped the World Trade Center on Sept 11, 2001, says she still has occasional nightmares.

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The Patriot Ledger

It happens a lot to Maura Heidcamp: She’s talking to someone about 9/11, and they fall into an embarrassed silence when she tells them she escaped from the World Trade Center that day.“You can tell they feel funny about asking, but I don’t mind,” the Plymouth resident and Ocean Spray manager said. “I want to tell people what my experience was - so they’ll remember it.”

Now 41, Heidcamp feels as strongly as ever that she’s one of the lucky ones - alive today for the happenstance of being in a meeting on the 55th floor of the North Tower when hijackers crashed American Airlines Flight 11 into the building about 40 floors higher. That gave her and hundreds of others time to get out of the building well before it collapsed.

She sleeps better these days, though she still has occasional nightmares that she’s lost and is searching for her husband and daughter. She remembers the sound of the towers falling - “a horrible, deafening noise” - but the most enduring memory from that morning is the sight of a troop of firefighters passing her and others on the way up the stairs they went down.

“A lot of them were quite young,” Heidcamp said. “I’ve wondered how many of them survived.”

She also wonders why more Americans aren’t demanding a more focused pursuit of the “war on terrorism,” instead of an Iraq war she considers a costly diversion from the nation’s true adversaries.

“No one has been brought to justice,” she said. “We got Saddam Hussein, but I don’t think he was in any way connected to 9/11. Why aren’t we all more appalled by this?”

This year she’s telling her own story in more detail to her daughter, who’s 10 and more curious about the event and her mom’s memorabilia. As she does every year, Heidcamp will say a special prayer at her church, St. Bonaventure in Manomet, and donate a pint of blood.

She’s seen numerous TV specials about 9/11 the past couple of weeks - and unlike some who endured that day, she doesn’t flinch from watching video clips of the doomed planes and shattered, smoking towers.

“It’s so real,” she said. “It never gets old.”

Lane Lambert may be reached at llambert@ledger.com.