Red Cross volunteer, former FBI agent recall Sept. 11 experiences

achristnovich@beaufortgazette.comSeptember 11, 2012 

Riley Gates, 9, finishes placing flags at the top of a fence with her classmates while Ansleigh Pingree, 9, at right, watches Tuesday morning outside of Beaufort Academy on Lady's Island. Students at the school placed 3000 flags on campus to commemorate the people who lost their lives during the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

SARAH WELLIVER

Days after Red Cross volunteer Larry Goldberg returned from Ground Zero to his home in Huntsville, Ala., he could still taste thick, chalky dust.

Goldberg flew out with a handful of other volunteers on the evening of Sept. 11, 2001, and spent two weeks feeding and giving water and comfort kits to firefighters, other responders and those who frantically searched for their loved ones.

Goldberg, 70, told about his volunteer experience at a 9/11 memorial service Tuesday at Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park.

"I felt like I was in a black-and-white movie," Goldberg said, recalling the dust that hung in the air for weeks after the World Trade Center buildings fell. "Nothing looked like how it was supposed to look."

At times during the speech, the former Marine's voice quavered, and he teared up as he recalled the first time he saw the giant brass sphere that used to sit between the towers. It was recovered from the mangled remains and now is displayed in Battery Park, a half-mile from its old home. When he saw it he fell to his knees, he said.

"It stays with you," he said of his experience. "It takes a lot out of you."

Since then, Goldberg has volunteered at other disaster sites, including in New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, but in his 25 years as a volunteer, Sept. 11 was the most difficult, he said.

Another guest speaker was former FBI agent Will Morrison. He was one of the first responders to the Flight 93 crash in western Pennsylvania.

At first, he said, hardly any debris from the plane could be found. Parts were lodged deep in the soil after hitting ground at 580 mph.

Morrison described the scene as "absolute and complete devastation."

"The first significant item with evidentiary value was a wallet," Morrison said. "It was the wallet of one of the hijackers."

Investigators later found passports and a to-do list from the hijackers, he said. They also recovered the plane's black boxes, which confirmed the passenger's heroism, Morrison said. Had the plane stayed in the air a few seconds longer, Morrison said, it would have hit a town, including an elementary school.

Tuesday's memorial service was organized by Beaufort city councilwoman and Red Cross volunteer Donnie Beer.

Between patriotic songs, poems and speeches, Beer announced the exact times when, 11 years ago, each plane struck the towers, the Pentagon and the moment Flight 93 lost contact with air traffic controllers.

During these announcements, the crowd bowed their heads, while two men played taps and the American flag fluttered in the light breeze.

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