BOCA RATON, Fla. - Of the nearly 3,000 people killed in the 9/11 attacks, 343 were New York City firefighters or paramedics.
When the Twin Towers fell, a Palm Beach County firefighter tried to help rescue those first responders.
Retired Palm Beach County fire rescue captain Joseph Bartlett spent more 17 days digging through Ground Zero rubble.
A decade later Bartlett reflects on those days from his Boca Raton home and still wishes he could have helped more.
"I wonder how all the families are doing. I wonder how all the kids are doing without a dad or mom," said Bartlett.
Attached to a Federal Emergency Management Agency rescue team, Bartlett rushed to Ground Zero two days after the attacks on September 11th, 2001.
Describing the scene Bartlett said, “I never saw a chair, I never saw a desk, I never saw a filing cabinet. I never saw anything that would remind me that there was an office in this 220 stories of devastation."
Bartlett's job: Hooking up heavy machinery used to dig through tons of twisted metal and stone while hoping to find signs of life.
Describing the work he did Bartlett said, "Praying that we would run into somebody or hear a voice calling for help but it never happened."
Bartlett said he helped pull at least 3 of the 343 first responders killed from the World Trade Center rubble.
The salute given to those fallen heroes during rescue efforts is something that sticks with Bartlett forever.
"Everybody on the pile would just stop for a moment, take your helmet and put your helmet under your arm and you'd wait until that member was removed from the pile. It was such an overwhelming feeling," said Bartlett.
For 17 days straight Bartlett said his team worked around the clock.
He described the work as exhausting and sometimes dangerous.
As the country nears the anniversary of 9/11, Bartlett hopes his work was worth it in the long run.
“Somewhere along the line I hope that we gave closure to some of the children, some of the families," said Bartlett.
Bartlett has also helped with rescue and recovery efforts in New Orleans for Hurricane Katrina’s aftermath and after an earthquake hit Haiti last year.
Copyright 2011 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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