‘This was like Armageddon’ – 2 retired NYPD detectives reflect on 9/11 response

Remembering 9/11

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Retired New York City Police Department Detective Sergeant Robert Young remembers Sept. 11, 2001, like it was yesterday.

“It’s something that you’ll never forget,” the former bank robbery task force detective said.

Young had an office in Seven World Trade Center. He arrived at 6 a.m. every single day, except on Sept. 11, 2001. As fate would have it, Young had just been promoted and had to stop in at internal affairs first.

“I was getting ready, just putting my tie on and the first building got hit,” Young said.

At the same time, Amadeo Pulley, a retired detective with NYPD, received a phone call.

On this day, he was home with his kids.

“It’s my mother in Florida, She goes, ‘Are you working right now?’ I said, ‘I’m supposed to be. What’s going on?’ She said turn on the TV. The first plane had hit,” Amadeo said. He is a retired detective with the NYPD Arson Explosion Squad.

Two different lives would collide at ground zero on that day.

“This was like Armageddon. You know. It was like something I never forgot it,” Young said.

“If you looked up, you could not see the sky. It was dark,” Pulley said.

Despite no real guidance thanks to phone lines being down, Young and Pulley got to work searching for survivors. They sifted through what they called “the pile” for days on days.

“It was like a snow globe. There was stuff flying in the air everywhere. And it was hot. It was very hot there,” Pulley said.

They found no survivors, only personal belongings that would later be used to identify those who had been killed.

The smell of those days still haunts them.

“It’s something that never leaves your head. You always remember that. It’s a smell that you can never forget,” Young said.

Pulley, like many 9/11 first responders, was diagnosed with cancer. He also suffers from sinus and respiratory issues. He considers himself lucky as he is now cancer-free. He was able to use funds from the Victim Compensation Fund, which provides compensation to individuals who were present at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon crash site, or the Shanksville, Pennsylvania crash site, at some point between Sept. 11, 2001, and May 30, 2002.

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