Today, our country will pause to remember the thousands killed in the September 11 terrorists attacks 17 years ago.
A local retired military captain recounts his story as he made it out one building safely but ran back into another to help those who were injured.
“Upon exiting I didn’t know planes had hit. I thought bombs had gone off,” said Captain Greg Amira.
Amira was working in the south tower on the 73rd floor on Sept. 11, 2001.
He safely got out of his building, but ran back in.
“The military teaches you the same thing. You run to the catastrophe, you don’t run away. So I re-entered the buildings,” said Amira.
He helped people who were trapped in the elevator get out safely without considering the danger he was in.
“I saw coming from the lobby area, sparks, more sparks and instantly the glass blew out. It was fire. Instantly I thought I was dead. Marble on the wall had cracked and covered us. It wasn’t so much the debris it was the blast wave that killed everybody,” said Amira.
Hundreds of people were dead around him and though he was badly injured, he had to get up with the help of a firefighter. The two of them were checking to see if anyone else in the building was still alive.
“Physically he showed me, punch them in the chest, smack them in the face, flick their eyeball and go to the next body. I did it a little bit and I kept almost passing out because I couldn’t breathe,” said Amira.
After he finally made it out of the building, he saw what would be etched in his mind forever.
“Just watching it crumble. 10 floors. 12 floors. 15 floors. In and out of it, coming down and I was right there at the base,” said Amira.
That’s all he remembered before passing out from pain and shock and waking up in the hospital.
“I had a nice size hematoma on my head. I had shrapnel on my back, buttocks, legs. They didn’t know what a traumatic brain injury was back then. For the next 9 to 12 months I was always late and forgot everything,” said Amira.
17 years ago today, one thing Amira hasn’t forgot is the day he’s forced to remember.
“Don’t ever think it’s the end. Don’t ever think we should give up. We will rebuild stronger and better,” said Amira.
Capt. Amira now runs a wounded veterans association in the Tampa Bay area. You can see more on the organization at www.facebook.com/WoundedVets.