On the 20th anniversary of 9/11, local service members reflect on healing in the aftermath

What began as a normal Tuesday morning turned into a national tragedy that would kill nearly 3,000 people, spark a nearly 20-year war on terror, and change the nation and world forever. 

Although miles away, the events of 9/11 hit close to home in Tri-Cities. 

Former Richland Police Officer, Captain Mike Cobb, was part of a Crisis Intervention Team that included a Kennewick Police Officer, a Benton County Sheriff Deputy, and his wife who is a mental health professional.

“We went to ESU (Emergency Service Unit) Squad 1 and knocked on the door,” said Captain Mike Cobb. “One of the officers finally came out and had no idea what we were doing there until we explained. The look on his face when he said ‘Where are you from?’ and we said ‘Washington State’ and he said ‘And you came all this way to help us?’ and we said ‘Yeah, you’re our brothers’.”

Cobb and the Crisis Intervention Unit were there on Ground Zero for days, helping assist first responders and counsel them through crisis intervention strategies.

“The main theme I kept hearing was that they saw the blue sky only minutes before and couldn’t process how a beautiful day turned into this,” said Cobb.

The rubble of the two towers is a picture that Cobb will never forget.

“There was a specific column that stood up from the rubble, and just knowing that I knew someone under that rubble who was never recovered but who was still in that rubble, that’s something I’ll never forget,” said Cobb.

His good friend of five years, firefighter Pat Brown, was with New York Fire Department the day of the attack.

“We met at a conference,” said Cobb “I was asked to pick him up at the airport and we were friends since then until the towers came down.”

Brown was stuck under the rubble and was not identified until much later.

Additionally, Tri-Cities native and marine Kevin Doncaster, watched the towers fall on live television. He had already been serving. After 9/11 he was told to go return where he served in Afghanistan and Iraq. He now founded and runs his non-profit organization Warhawks PTSD Service Dogs for Veterans where he gives service dogs to veterans and first responders suffering from PTSD.

“Next year, for the first time, our charity will only be serving veterans as a result of so many soldiers coming home from Afghanistan,” said Doncaster, referring to the coming end of the 20-year war in Afghanistan. “I remember 9/11 but focus more on 9/12, the day after. Because that was the day I saw everyone uniting. Every single person was helping their fellow American.”

Instead of caring for one’s fellow neighbor.

“There’s been more division than we’ve ever seen at least in my lifetime,” said Doncaster.

And even though 9/11 represents the deadliest terrorist attack in U.S. history, Doncaster says, even this can teach us something.

“September 12th brought out the best this country has ever had and I’d like to see that come back,” said Doncaster. “I want to find a way to bring people together regardless of their differences.”

Doncaster, a marine who feels honored to have defended his country, says he hopes we can get back to that unity without another tragedy happening.

“I just want to see everybody accept each other that we’re different and we’re not always going to agree but let’s just find a way to heal this nation and move forward,” said Doncaster.

With the war in Afghanistan ending and American troops on their way home, Doncaster reminds everyone that we must step up to help them heal.

“Even if you never pulled a trigger, the trauma and stress of being there at war are enough to cause someone harm,” said Doncaster. “We need to take care of their mental health and ours and make sure we do our best to heal.”

Source: NBC Right Now