Local first responder shares story of 9/11 response

Local

MALTA, N.Y. (NEWS10) — As America reflects on the events of September 11, 2001, we not only remember the victims, but also the heroes who ran in to help without a second thought. Many of them are from right here in the Capital Region. 

Like so many of us, Kathy Shaw, of Malta, remembers exactly where she was and what she was doing when the planes hit the Twin Towers, but many of us would not receive the same call she did shortly thereafter.

“It was drop everything and go,” said Shaw. 

She was part of the New York Regional Response Team and served as a paramedic as well as a medical, hazmat, and rescue specialist. She was sent to Ground Zero that night for a rescue mission to extricate survivors, but she said, sadly, her team only found remains.

“Whenever we would find something, we would mark it and the FDNY would come in and take it out,” said Shaw.

She said one thing that sticks with her the most is when they started identifying victims, and she learned that some of them were firefighters that had previously trained her for the exact emergency response role that she was called there for.

“I knew these people personally. They came up to the Albany area to help train us,” said Shaw.

Ironically, she was also at the World Trade Center just months before leading a CPR training course for people in their tax and finance department.

“I believe a lot of them passed away. I didn’t know any of them personally, just through that class,” said Shaw.

She said that while a number of her team members have passed away from illnesses linked to their time at Ground Zero, the remaining members are still very close.

“We quite often will think of each other and call each other at the same time. It’s a bond,” said Shaw.

She said she suffers from respiratory issues as a result of her time there, including COPD and sinusitis. In total, she spent about two weeks there.

“All I can say is it was surreal,” said Shaw.

She said the experience certainly took a mental toll on all of them, and to this day, certain things will trigger flashbacks.

“A certain smell, a sight of papers flying, a certain sound of firefighters pass alarms going off,” said Shaw.

While each year, this day is a difficult one for her, she said it’s important that we all take the time to reflect and remember.

“I just want to say to those people who were there with me and those other people who were there, God bless you, and we’re all thinking of each other,” said Shaw.

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