The nation is pausing to remember the 20 years since the September 11th attacks in New York, at the Pentagon and a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
A retired NYPD detective and a retired NYPD officer are reflecting on the events and what it was like at Ground Zero in the moments, days and weeks after the attacks.
Retired Officer Anthony Makowski recalled being at the scene after the first plane struck the North Tower of the World Trade Center.
"We were quickly trying to set up an evacuation zone, a triage zone for people and that is when the second plane hit the second tower," Makowski told WPTV’s Michael Williams on To the Point. "There are no words to explain it. It was like a freight train, just coming in a loud explosion. I remember the landing gear landing a couple blocks away."
Retired Detective Erza Dilbert was at home when he first heard of the attacks. He quickly joined his team and headed to Ground Zero. He said despite all of the training provided to the team by NYPD, nothing prepared him for what he encountered.
"Honestly there was no thinking that day, you didn't have time to think, you just had to adapt and react to what you were seeing," Dilbert said. "There was nothing like this in our playbook that we have. We don't even have equipment to deal with what we are seeing, so you just had to react and improvise."
Dilbert also remembered encountering survivors leaving the World Trade Center.
"The people just wanted to touch us for whatever reason because they were coming out of the complex and we were going in and the look on their eyes, the fears of what they are seeing and they looked at us with a feeling telling us that you guys are going to die because we were going in to what they just left. We had no idea about how bad it was actually was," Dilbert said.
Makowski and Dilbert spent many months at Ground Zero. They say the attacks taught them a lot of life and appreciating each day.
"Every day is a gift,” Makowski said. “No one knows what their death date is, but 9/11 wasn't mine. Where I was and what I was doing that day possibly could have been my day but it wasn’t, so I live every day after this."
"I'm just happy every day that I get up at this point, just being able to see a whole new day. 9/11 ,for me, taught me a lot of things about myself and one of those things was to appreciate the very next day," Erza said.
Both Erza and Makowski retired to Florida and joined the Palm Beach County School District Police Department. They are called heroes for their actions on 9/11, but Erza says he was just doing his job. He insisted everyday Americans are the ones who deserve the honor of being called a hero.
"The real heroes were the civilians that came from all over the country and volunteered their time. They weren't getting compensated and without them we weren't able to do the little things like wash the soot off our face, have a meal, shower, and sleep,” Erza said. “I asked all these people who came from different walks of life and different parts of the country and they all said the same thing, they wanted to give something back."