COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
Pete Herman, an ironworker, volunteered to help with search, rescue and recovery the day after Sept. 11, 2001. Herman like many others at ground zero risked his health and his life.
Herman said when he heard about the attacks on the twin towers, he knew he needed to help.
"All of a sudden, I hear a rumble and they yell run, run, the building next to us as we were walking up had come down. I made it to where the news journalist were allowed, I was so out of breath I couldn't breathe and George Stephanopoulos grabbed me and interviewed me," Herman said.
Herman worked closely with the firefighters to put out the big fire on the main heap. He spent fourteen hours the day after 9/11 putting out fires and recovering debris from the planes.
"It was basically like chaos but it was very organized chaos everybody just somehow got to going it was basically search for anything the goal in the beginning was were there any bodies or any people. Whenever you found a piece of the plane with the eggshells on it you had to give it to a FEMA guy," Herman.
Herman said the chaos of that day left him mentally and physically exhausted, for weeks he had trouble breathing and it caused him to fall into a depression.
"I went into a little depression for six weeks after it for six weeks I was having a lot of trouble breathing. There was so much smoke there was no visibility whatsoever. Many of my ironworker buddies got sick," Herman said.
Herman said because of all the smoke inhalation, he gets his lungs tested once a year as part of an ironworker study.
Herman said he was asked to rebuild the towers shortly after his time doing recovery but declined the offer feeling too mentally and physically exhausted, still unable to breathe properly.
Herman said his experience at ground zero helped him to put life into perspective and he realized how important family is and how strong the country can be when it comes together," Herman said.
"There's nothing that we cant surmount together, nothing, nothing. New York is resilient it always bounces back," Herman said.