KANSAS CITY, Mo. — When the twin towers tumbled to the ground 20 years ago, two Kansas City first responders answered the call and helped how they could.
“I got a phone call for deployment shortly after the second tower collapsed,” Kansas City Fire Department Capt. Chad Dailey said.
Dailey has spent his career running toward danger. At the time, he was part of Missouri Task Force One, a group of first responders who go to disasters right after they happen. He arrived in Manhattan the day after the attack and immediately went to work sifting through the rubble of the World Trade Center.
“We were still in rescue mode, searching for life, but everything we found, everything we found, everyone was passed away or gone,” he said.
“When we got to where the Trade Center was, it looked like 30 stories of rubble spread over half a square mile,” Mission Police Sgt. Mike Palmieri said. “It was unreal.”
Before moving to Mission, Palmieri spent 30 years working for the New York Police Department. He was off-duty when the attacks happened but walked to Ground Zero soon after the towers fell.
He lost many friends that day and spent the weeks after sifting through rubble at the Staten Island junkyard, where they took the debris.
“They would dump this big dump truck. You’d be there with 10 guys and go through it,” Palmieri said. “And we recovered maybe drivers license, some type of ID, any identifiable stuff that would be in people’s personal offices and stuff.”
Dailey and Palmieri don’t know each other, but they both answered the call in the aftermath of this tragedy, helping find remains and personal belongings of the victims. They both walked away changed men.
“It was just unreal knowing that two 110-story buildings were reduced to probably 25 or 30 stories of sheer rubble. There’s no other way to describe it,” Palmieri said. “It was unbelievable.”
“I got a better hunger for life, realizing my mortality and seeing 300 men who lost their lives there and have to work that scene,” Dailey said.
Despite the horrors of that day 20 years ago, both men remain first responders today, and they’re proud they were able to help bring closure to so many victims’ families.
But their experiences at Ground Zero will always remain with them.