15 years since 9/11, a Houston fire chief recalls his time at Ground Zero

It’s hard to believe that Sunday, Sept. 11, 2016 will mark fifteen years since 9/11, the deadliest terrorist attacks on U.S. soil. FOX 26 News sought the perspective of a first responder who was there. 

“It was surreal,” says Houston Fire Department District Chief Richard Cole. His fire station, his crew and his home are here in Houston, but when the World Trade Center Twin Towers crumbled to the ground on Sept. 11, 2001, Chief Cole did not hesitate going to New York City to help. 

Although thousands of people were killed in terrible terrorist attacks, the District Chief put himself in harm’s way to help at Ground Zero.  

“Everything was pulverized," explains Cole. "You didn't see a whole desk. You didn't see a telephone. You didn't see a door. You just had pulverized mess and steel and concrete.”

Cole's team was part of a rescue mission which quickly developed into a recovery operation. The chief's group recovered one body and countless body parts.   

“So at least the families had something for DNA testing, for them to be able to have closure with because there are still over a thousand people who were never found,” says Cole.

That surreal experience helping out where the Twin Towers fell is actually now also helping first responders in Houston. 

”Right now, we're working on stuff for the Super Bowl," says Cole. "Now with terrorism being both domestic and foreign, that's created a whole new genre for us to be experts in."

Chief Cole, a 32-year veteran of HFD, dreamed of being a firefighter since he was just five years old, all for one reason. ”To try to help people,” says Cole.

The chief is marking the anniversary playing the bagpipes at a memorial which begins with a moment of silence.