TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Many people from Tampa Bay were in New York on Sept. 11, 2001, including special agent in charge of the Tampa field office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation Michael McPherson.

McPherson was one of many who rushed to the World Trade Center moments after the towers were hit.

At the time, McPherson was an FBI drug agent in New York. He says back then, terrorism wasn’t on people’s minds. He says that changed 20 years ago.

“Even though in 1993, eight years earlier, the World Trade Center had already been attacked, but I was doing what I thought was God’s work, keeping drugs off the streets,” McPherson said.

On Sept. 11, 2001, McPherson was getting ready for work. Like so many people, he watched the television. The first plane crashed into the World Trade Center. Then the second.

McPherson knew what he had to do.

“I had a gun safe, I grabbed every weapon I owned at the time,” McPherson said. “Everything I had I grabbed, I hopped in my car and headed towards to tunnel.”

He says all FBI agents went to a command post at the bottom of the towers. Soon after, they watched as some people made the choice to jump rather than die in the towers.

“We realized at the time our command post was too close, we were going to get hit by the bodies coming down, so we backed up and shortly after the towers came down,” McPherson said.

He says it was those men and women who saved their lives.

“If we would’ve stood at the bottom of that tower, it would have fell on us. They pushed us back, and their sacrifice saved us,” McPherson said.

He was part of a panel discussion Friday on the impact of 9/11. The panel included Dick Greco, who was Tampa mayor on 9/11, Tampa International Airport CEO Joe Lopano, and Col. DJ Reyes (retired), who served in Afghanistan and mentors other veterans.