Local first responders share their experiences assisting in New York City on 9/11

Hampden County

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Nearly two decades after the September 11 attacks, the memories remain fresh in the minds of first responders who went there.

“The sights, the smells of being there, it was a lot of burning plastic. You’ll never get out of your brain from being there,” said Robert Hopkins, a paramedic and deputy commander of the Worcester-based Disaster Management Assistance team.

“The building itself was, it’s hard to explain, but it was almost breathing. The sound the building was making when we were underneath it. You could hear the metal cracking.”

Sergeant Michael Goldberg, Hampden County Sheriff’s Department

Hopkins was sent down to New York to help, with a team of doctors, nurses, and other paramedics. “Arrived, the first time I was there, there was still smoke billowing up the canyons of Manhattan,” Hopkins said

With all planes grounded, teams loaded onto buses, bound for the city.

“It was like walking on the moon. It was all very dusty. very inhospitable. We ended up treating firefighters, policemen, FBI agents, ironworkers. Everyone wanted to help.”

Robert Hopkins

Sergeant Michael Goldberg was with the Hampden County Sheriff’s Department in 2001. He and his canine partner, “Jack” were among the first teams to arrive that day.

“We were instructed to go where the canine units were because at that point nothing was really working except for the dogs to locate bodies,” Goldberg said. “Sensors weren’t working because everything was too hot, and the microphones they were dropping in to find people weren’t working because the building was too loud.”

After 17 hours of searching, Jack fell 40-feet inside a damaged building and was seriously injured. Goldberg said Jack died two years later from what he inhaled at Ground Zero. Goldberg still carries items from 9/11 in his wallet every day.

“The dog did an amazing job. Ended up locating about six or seven firefighters, their remains. It was a pretty somber thing. The New York City firefighters came over and the Chaplain, they did a service.”

Michael Goldberg

And through their sacrifice, lives were saved.

Goldberg said, “The New York City police and New York City firefighters especially did an amazing job of getting people out of there. They saved so many lives. It was amazing what they did that day. It was incredible.”

Now the first responders who lost their lives on September 11, will be remembered in western Massachusetts, with their names forever etched on the memorial in Springfield.

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