Today is the 17-year anniversary of the terror attacks on the U.S. now known as 9/11. Park City High School students were able to hear from a NYPD first responder who was at the world trade center that day.
Park City resident Scott Zink spent nearly three hours telling two groups of Park City High students his story as a member of the New York Police Departments Emergency Service Unit on September 11, 2001. Zink had just finished a shift and was just about to go home when he heard news that a plane had struck the north tower.
“We all turn on the tv saw the first tower burning it was pretty bad and we thought okay this is going to get ugly. So I grabbed another sergeant one that relieved me from the night tour and I said ‘leave me a vehicle I’m changing and I’m going with you’. And I picked up the phone and called my wife and said, ‘turn on the tv, plane just hit the world trade center, I don’t know when I’m going to be home. We figured this one of the biggest rescues we have, there’s a lot of people hurt we need to get them out.’" Zink continued, "That was the last time I spoke to my wife until about three or four o’clock that afternoon. My entire family pretty much thought I was dead especially as the buildings collapsed because they knew that was where I was going to be.”
Zink arrived on the scene before the first building collapsed. He saw the building begin to tilt and ran into an underground parking garage between the two towers just before the first tower collapsed. He says that the dust was so thick he couldn’t see much more than two feet in front of him. Zink turned on a flashlight and began making his way towards an exit.
“All of a sudden I had fireman grabbing onto me and holding on because they saw the light. I’m looking at one I put the (light) up on him and he’s covered in debris and blood and snot coming out of his nose." Zink said, "I’m like oh my God this guy looks horrible and then I realized I looked exactly the same, you were just covered in everything.”
Zink says just after exiting the structure the other tower collapsed.
“I just get back of underneath the building number one, when that building collapses. This time though--do you guys know about the packs that fireman wear? The masks? We have those we train, and we known how to use them." Zink explained, "So, this time I actually had one of those with me, so I actually could breathe. Now I’m running down the block and I got about half a block away I’m like I’m not making it and I just dove under a truck. Debris hit the truck, things were bouncing around, but I got out. So, we go back to the command post again and by now over the police radio we’re getting reports from firemen that there are dozens upon dozens and dozens of firemen and policemen trapped.”
That began weeks of searching for people and clearing the rubble. Zink says he worked 18-hour days for several weeks but was uplifted by the unity shown after.
“We came together as a country like I couldn’t believe." Zink said, "It kind of helped me a lot. People were just cheering us coming in and out of the site. People were walking up and thanking us, you’d come in and there were trays of food.”
Zink remembers an interaction he had with one woman in particular.
“I’m standing there and I’m kind of exhausted, numb and a car comes screeching to a halt in front of us. Again, it’s a four-lane highway on each side. Woman gets out she’s hysterical crying and I’m still a policeman, right? I’m like I don’t have the energy for this, what is this?" Zink continued, "She comes walking up throws her arms around me gives me a big hug, kisses me on the cheek, thanks me, gets back in the car and takes off. People were just thankful, and it kept our spirits up and let us work better like that, it helped us. New York City is a very diverse population sometimes we all don’t get along, but they did. Don’t forget that. That’s the most important thing, we’re all here together.”
Zink also let the students know about the immense number of first responders who have died since September 11th due to health effects from the day. He says he chose to spend the day speaking with students to let them know what happened, and to cope with the tragedy himself.
“Most of it is, I want them to know what happened." Zink explained, "It’s a unique position where they are where they can have somebody that was actually at a piece of history that can relay to them their perspective. I don’t want my friends forgotten. I want them to know don’t get lax it could happen again. And the biggest part its kind of helping me get through the day. Normally, if I was in New York I’d be with the other officers I work with and we’d commiserate. Here is a way of me coping with the day.”