SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — Seventeen years after the World Trade Center towers fell, the pain is still raw for many of the first responders who sifted through what was left in hopes of finding the victims.

Sacramento Deputy Fire Chief Chris Costamagna was part of an urban search and rescue team sent to New York City after the attack.

He can still smell the burned metal and soot from those days combing through what was left behind after two passenger airplanes were flown into the twin towers. Sept. 11 is one of the toughest days of the year, but he wants to make sure the victims and their families are never forgotten.

EXTENDED INTERVIEW (14:18)

Time has healed some wounds, but it can never erase the uneasiness of talking about the most important search and rescue mission of his career.

“It was difficult. It was emotionally charged the whole time,” he said. “We walked up to the corner of Church and Vessey streets and there was a pile—and that’s what it ended up being called by the rest of the rescuers—was a pile because it was only about 3 stories tall. It had been reduced from 110 stories to a pile of debris about 3 stories tall.”

After 14 days, his team never found any survivors. Costamagna would later learn a friend and New York City firefighter died when the towers came down.

While the 17th anniversary is a somber one, he says he’ll never let the pain of that day overshadow the courageous stance our country took in the face of evil.

“It also brought us together though. There was no partisan politics those days after that. Everybody was together,” he said.

 

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