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Paramedic at Ground Zero remembers 9/11 attacks as 15th anniversary approaches

First responders face lingering effects
Posted at 7:09 PM, Sep 09, 2016

It’s a day cemented in American history. Sunday marks the 15th anniversary of the September 11 attacks.

One of the paramedics who responded to the World Trade Center that day says lingering effects from the terror attacks have made the past 15 years a challenge.

Mark Harris said he was 200 ft away from the World Trade Center when the first building collapsed on September 11, 2001.

“All of a sudden, we heard a huge roar that sounded like a freight train in your ears,” remembered the former New York City paramedic.

Debris buried him, tearing a kevlar vest he had on his back that day.

“I was able to dig myself out, but I couldn't see, I was covered [in dust]. The first thing we did was try to save people,” Harris said.

The cloud of dust blinded him, but the memories come back clearly in nightmares nearly every night.

“You remember the smell, the taste, the feel of that cloud and the absolute and total darkness,” Harris described.

Part of the reason Harris was willing to recount the horror to NewsChannel 5 was to call attention to how first responders are struggling with health issues related to exposure at Ground Zero.

Harris beat thyroid cancer. Newsweek reports 600 other emergency responders have died since 2001.

“A guy I knew for 20 years died last year from lung cancer, a guy I called my friend,” Harris said.

The Brooklyn-native left New York in 2010, but couldn’t leave the emergency health realm. He now works for Delray Medical Center as a liaison to paramedics; some of the only people who can relate to what he’s been through.

“Heroes are people who run in, when others run out,” he said.

Harris returned to Ground Zero last year for the attack’s anniversary. The city gave him a Survivor’s Medal.

Sunday, Harris will be the speaker at a ceremony remembering the 15th anniversary in Wellington beginning at 5p.m.