BRADENTON, Fla. (FOX 13) - Garrett Lindgren had just finished a 24-hour shift with New York City Fire Rescue Company 3 when the first plane hit. Instead of continuing home, he drove back to the station.
"This was bigger than anything, anyone had ever seen," he said.
From there, he rushed to the World Trade Center but first, he called his wife.
"I said, 'A lot of us are going to die today.' I believed it," he said.
"I could hear he was scared, which I never heard, ever," recalled his wife, Nancy. "The only word I heard was 'us.' Of course, I'm trying to ask him, 'What do you mean? Why are you going there?' He said, 'It's my job. We are brothers. We got to go and protect. It's what we do.'"
Lindgren and others formed a crew and headed to the World Trade Center. They arrived shortly after the North Tower fell.
"There was not a sound. The only sound we could hear was the PASS alarm on the firefighters' air pack which activates when a firefighter becomes immobile. We heard those chirping sounds everywhere" he said.
Smoke and ash made it nearly impossible to see.
"Training kicked in. The fact that thousands of people were missing kicked in. The fact that we were in shock, I guess we were functioning robots at that point," he said.
At home, Nancy waited. She didn't know Garrett's name had been placed on a list of the missing. He would call later that night.
"I kind of dropped to my knees on the floor and it was him. I only remember him saying, 'I'm OK. Are you guys OK?' and he said, 'Nancy, this is a recovery. It's not a rescue,'" Nancy recalled.
Garret lost 62 members of his firefighter family that day. He searched the rubble for 11 days before returning home. He'd go back for months and search at Ground Zero.
Today he remembers and reflects on the time the nation came together to heal.
"I would love to see America go back to September 12, 2001. Not because it was the day after an unthinkable tragedy. Because it snowballed into a nation that basically became one," he said.
He now watches as his health and the health of his friends deteriorates. He's lost good friends all from the exposure at Ground Zero.
"We were doing what needed to be done the best way we could," he said.