Memories of Sept. 11, 2001 are cemented into the minds of Americans everywhere. But those memories aren’t as vivid and emotional for the average citizen as they are for the first responders from that day.
David Solomon was working as a crew chief on an ambulance in New York City. He remembers getting a call from dispatch that a plane had hit the North tower of the World Trade Center. He said his crew assumed it was a small plane. Solomon could have never imagined what he was about to see.
“We pulled up, there were bodies, there were people jumping … it was really bad,” Solomon said.
He added that he saw a couple holding hands jumping out of the building.
Solomon is the commander of American Legion Post 10 in Albany. He will never forget what he experienced on 9/11 and he hopes Americans won’t either.
Pieces of cement were falling as Solomon walked through soot and asbestos. Bodies were piling up. He felt helpless as he took in the immense amount of damage and death.
“I couldn’t help more people,” he said. “You never want the feeling that you didn’t help enough. That was the feeling I was left with.”
One of Solomon’s medic students, a teenager named Richard Pearlman, went back into the towers three times. Solomon tried to get him to stop. But he wouldn’t.
Pearlman died as the North tower collapsed.
“I told him to get out of there,” Solomon said. “I think about him every single day.”
In the months that followed, he attended 63 funerals.
First responders worked to sift through the rubble to find victims. For three months Solomon worked at the scene searching for remains. He was exposed to chemicals that made it hard to breathe. He added that there were multiple canines helping at the scene. The last remaining dog died from cancer from being exposed to those chemicals.
“I lived the nightmare for the next three months looking for survivors and body parts so families could get closure,” he said. “There is so much more that I'm begging people and children to please never forget that day.”
His wife Linda didn’t even know where he was the first three days. When he was finally able to go home, people lined the streets with signs supporting the first responders. Now, 20 years later, Solomon said the tone surrounding 9/11 is different.
“Twenty years later, it’s like they forgot,” he said. “They forgot.”
Solomon is organizing the annual American Legion Post 10 Sept. 11 memorial. The memorial will start at 8:46 a.m. to represent the time the first plane hit the North tower. The event will include a fly over from the United States Air Force and a 21 gun salute.
He urges people to remember the significance of 9/11. Solomon hopes that today’s children are still learning about the events of that day in school.
“They need to remember because it’s a day of memorial not celebration,” he said. “People are forgetting what happened and how it happened and the terrorists that flew those planes. They’re forgetting all about it.”
Maddie Pfeifer can be contacted at 541-812-6091 or Madison.Pfeifer@lee.net. Follow her on Twitter via @maddiepfeifer_