SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Images of black smoke swallowing the space around him and mangled metal sticking out of the ground, are still carved into Alberto De La Rosa’s memory. “It’s a picture in my head, it’s like volcano. Everybody was crying, people were going crazy.”
Most of us remember exactly where we were on September 11, 2001. That’s especially true for Alberto, a Springfield resident who was living in New York at the time, and raced to Ground Zero to help.
Alberto was a Red Cross volunteer in Long Island, on September 11, 2001. What started as a normal day at the office, quickly became the darkest day of his life.
It all began in the heart of New York City, an area once populated by buildings that would later be known as Ground Zero.
TAMARA: Take me back to what it was like when you first got there.
ALBERTO: Like a volcano striked, everything just disappeared like, I didn’t know was going on.
Firefighters were running towards flames they couldn’t put out, while police officers were trying to save lives they couldn’t save. “I just knew at that moment I wanted to find somebody alive, I wanted to do my work. That day, the first day, nobody slept. We went 48 hours without sleep,” Alberto said.
Hours turned into days, as hope turned into desperation. “Every morning we would wake up to find one person alive. We needed one person to bring the hope, but there came a point where we couldn’t do anything.”
Alberto searched endlessly in the mountain of debris, but never found a survivor.
TAMARA: Does that still bother you today?
ALBERTO: It’s not that it bothers me, it’s like, it’s like we couldn’t do something for these people.
But instead of letting that break him, he let it empower him to move forward. “We’ve got to move on no matter how strong we are, no matter how tough we look, we’ve got to move on.”
For Alberto, moving on doesn’t mean forgetting, it means remembering the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice by running towards danger, while everyone else was running away. “Everyone of these people is a hero, they gave their life.”
Alberto said he’s proud that his new home, the city of Springfield, will now have it’s own 9-11 Memorial.
He said this memorial is a way to pay tribute to all of the victims, and a way to make sure no one ever forgets the sacrifices made, on September 11th, 2001.