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‘I remember it like it was yesterday’: EMT reflects on time spent at Ground Zero

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(WBNG) - Without a second thought on September 11th, 2001 first responders from across the country, including EMTs in the Southern Tier, knew they needed to help.

Nicole Hoppes, who is now the EMS Captain for the Whitney Point Fire Department, was one of the leaders of that charge 20 years ago.

"On September 11th I was just coming off a 12-hour shift at Broome Ambulance," said Hoppes.

It was an end to a shift she will never forget.

"So immediately to me, I'm like ok I'm going to get a group of people together and say, 'Hey are you available?' if they need us."

Ten days later a group of 56 people, filling ten ambulances made the trip. With so much unknown Hoppes said her dad was worried.

"He said do you really have to go and I said Dad you know me, I'm going to go this it's what I'm supposed to do in my life," said Hoppes, "When we got there, there were streets upon streets of ambulances from all over."

Hoppes captured her own photographs, a first responder's perspective of the aftermath.

"I remember it like it was yesterday. I can still see the hustle and the bustle, I can still smell that jet fuel, I can smell the pile burning still."

"They called it the pile and that's just what it was a pile of debris, in that debris area obviously human lives were still in that pile, but there were lots of fire trucks, police cars, ambulances, and you could actually see those in the pile there."

Stationed a few streets away, they responded to the calls.

"We had a worker who was on the pile who started having chest pain and then we actually had another lady who we eventually transported later who was at a family gathering area, she had actually survived Tower Two so now she was having the survivor's guilt."

Two decades later, Hoppes said she shares her experience with the next generation of EMTs. Some were not even alive when the towers fell.

"Trying to explain it to the younger generations, you don't want to scare them from it, but this is reality now days and you just don't know anymore."

Hoppes said looking through the photos takes her back to that day and she wears the badge she was given every 9/11.

She said it is not easy to talk about her time there, but said it's important to remember. Despite the pain, she's proud of her service.

"It's hard to go back and look at this stuff you know after you see the footage it's like I stood there, granted we were only there for 30 hours but 30 hours long enough. We all say we didn't do enough, but we did. Just the fact that we were there for them."

Kaitlin Pearson

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