Firefighter recalls relief efforts after 9/11

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Monday marks the 16th anniversary of the terrorist attack that killed thousands and injured even more.¬†People all across the country will remember the events that happened on September 11, 2001.

Indianapolis is home to one of the many 9/11 memorials across the country. In 2011 a pair of 11,000 beams from the World Trade Center were brought to Indianapolis. The memorial is located near the intersection of Ohio and West Streets.

The memorial is part of Project 9/11 Indianapolis, a group that was formed to help bring the memorial to the city. After close to two years and a lot of work from a lot of people the dream became a reality.

“When we brought the beams home it was like a re-energizing of the patriotism. It was very emotional, it still is. You reach out to people and they responded,” said Indianapolis Firefighter Greg Hess who created the group.

In 2011, Hess was with the Indiana Task Force 1 and was deployed to ground zero after the second tower fell.

“I turned on the news, just in time to see the second plane hit the towers. I thought we’re going to war, said Hess.

Hess stood at ground zero about 16 hours later.

“The smoke was still rising from the fires when we got there. It looked like a terribly overcast day.

For the next eight days, he and his team searched for survivors. They found no one.

“You could still see hoselines stretched into the debris pile and they knew, they knew that they were gone. This was my Pearl Harbor. That’s the way I’ve associated it,” he said.

He said his time at 9/11 made an impact on his health.

“I got cancer as a result of being there. I woke up with stage three colon cancer from a routine colonoscopy. Had I not gone in for my colonoscopy I would be dead.”

He said his teammates have had lasting health issues as well.

“More than 40 percent of the ones who went out there have illnesses related to 911. We’ve lost 4 members because of their exposure at ground zero.”

Hess no longer has cancer but he says it is never far from his mind. He is no longer with the task force either. He currently works as a paramedic and firefighter for the Indianapolis Fire Department.