Indiana first responder recalls state's response to 9/11 attack

Firefighters hug at the site of the World Trade Center attack in New York City on September 11, 2001. (NBC photo/File)

INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) - Tom Neal recalls the day all eyes were on New York City - September 11, 2001.

"We were watching the TODAY Show and they had reported breaking news that an aircraft had hit Tower 1," said Neal, Division Chief and Task Force Coordinator with Indiana Task Force 1.

Moments later, he realized the severity of what had happened.

"Immediately I said we’re under attack. Without knowing what was going to happen, I went off to my part-time job and by the time I walked in the door I witnessed the first tower collapsing," said Neal.

Sixty-two members, four canines and three members from the Incident Support Team were called into action. They made the trek by convoy to ground zero.

"Each day we would leave the Jacobs Javits Center in two shifts. So we would have a day shift and a night shift, working 24 hours around the clock and work alongside FDNY, NYPD and response teams that went," said Neal.

Their job was to clear peripheral buildings around ground zero.

"We did our best to help find and locate those that were lost in the collapse," said Neal.

First responders found passports and purses on the roof from the aircraft that hit Tower 2. They notified the FBI.

"The actual item was still legible, so they could tie it back to a passenger on the aircraft," said Neal.

He told Eyewitness News his team would answer the call again, if needed.

"We’ve lost members, so you think back and would we change what we did? I don’t think so. None of would change that we responded that day because the nation needed us to respond," Neal said.

Neal says three Task Force 1 members died from cancer after ground zero exposure - Jackie Phillips, Sam Scott and Barry Green. They‘re honored at the Law Enforcement and Police Memorial in downtown Indianapolis.

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