PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Most everyone of a certain age remembers where they were the morning of September 11, 2001. And while we’ve all shared a common sense of grief in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, none is quite like the experience of Portland Fire Lieutenant Neil Martin.
Forty-eight hours after he watched the towers collapse he was there, in the debris, searching for survivors and recovering victims.
“We were walking toward the pile and it was still smoking,” said Martin. “You could just smell the fire burning and the barricades were there and there were people screaming at us holding signs and flyers of their loved ones, telling us to look for people.”
Martin would look for the loved ones alongside a firefighter named Billy, and on this day of remembrance, Martin still gazes at the names of the people he was looking for on a 9/11 memorial at Portland Fire Station 21. He describes it as an eerie feeling, to reflect on the names of people he could not save.
A ceremony late Wednesday morning on the east end of the Hawthorn Bridge paid tribute to those who died in the attack — and to the first responders who still carry health issues from their contact with the building collapse.
In addition to the Public Remembrance Ceremony held by the Portland Firefighters Association, other events were held at: Vancouver City Hall, Camas City Hall, Portland Fire Station 1, Portland Veterans Memorial Coliseum, and the Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue Station 59.