‘It was just surreal’: 9/11 first responders living in Grand Strand share their stories

Coastal Carolina Shields 9/11 Ceremony

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WMBF) - From sunrise to sunset, people throughout the Grand Strand stood firm on the promises that “We Will Never Forget” the events of 9/11.

Thousands came together to honor those who lost their lives in New York City, Washington D.C. and Pennsylvania, sharing stories of the victims and first responders who risked it all 18 years ago.

“It was just surreal to know the buildings I knew and grew up around were gone, it was just a pile of rubble,” said retired NYPD officer Hank Betts.

Betts was one of the thousands on scene at the World Trade Center that day.

Along with FBI Agent Rondie Peiscop-Grau, who still remembers the sights and sounds of that day vividly.

“I grew up in New York and it was the most unsettling feeling I had in my life surrounded by devastation,” said Peiscop-Grau.

Both shared memories on Wednesday with fellow first responders during the Coastal Carolina Shields 9/11 Memorial Service, honoring all who lost their lives on September 11, 2001.

“It is an honor to be able to sit in the same room as these men and women as we recognize the sacrifice they made, not only that day but their entire careers,” said Joe Luzzi, vice president of the Coastal Carolina Shields.

While the day is now know as “Patriots Day” and time continues to pass, for some the pain of that day has yet to heal.

“For a lot of the people here it doesn’t feel very patriotic, it’s a humbling memorial for friends and co-workers and they still need that closure,” said Luzzi.

Nearly two decades after the attacks, first responders like Betts and Peiscop-Grau know the relationships they built with total strangers are what go them through those darks days and the memories will never fade.

"It kept us going knowing that we had the people behind us and knowing we were supported,” said Betts.

For both, the images from that day are forever ingrained in their minds, losing long-time friends and co-workers. Each of them remained at Ground Zero several months after the towers had collapsed, leaning on one another each day.

“You work with someone in that type of emotional and stressful situation they’re part of you for the rest of your life,” said Peiscop-Grau.

There are several memorial sites in honor of those who lost their lives on September 11, 2001 throughout Horry County.

From everyone at WMBF News, we continue to remember those who lost their lives and honor the men and women who sacrificed so much on that day.

“We Will Never Forget.”

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