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9/11 still haunts three Pasco residents who were responders

Three Pasco County sheriff's deputies were New York City police officers on Sept. 11, 2001. None of them knew each other before coming to Pasco. They came here to get out of the cold, to live somewhere new and different.

They responded to the World Trade Center after the terrorist attacks. They all described it as hell, like being in a movie about the end of days. They all lost friends. They don't often talk about what happened, but they did earlier last week. They don't want people to forget.

Sgt. David Leon

He's 43 now and has asthma from the debris he inhaled while sifting through the remains of the buildings for weeks. His doctor told him warm weather would be better for his lungs. He worked in the Bronx. He remembers the smell of smoke and jet fuel. He remembers people jumping from the buildings and slamming to the ground. He remembers screaming.

He hasn't gone back to ground zero since his tour ended in the immediate weeks after the attack.

"I haven't had the strength," he said.

He doesn't watch Sept. 11 anniversary coverage on television. He doesn't fly anymore. He drives.

Cpl. Erica Poole

She couldn't understand why her body felt as if it were on fire when she got into the shower, and then she looked: She had been cut by tiny shards of glass, head to toe, after spending 20 hours at the scene that first day. Her uniform was covered, too.

Poole had begun the day patrolling Harlem with her partner. She believes in hunches and instincts, but she didn't get any bad vibes that morning. It was normal.

She said the scene looked like the end of the world.

"I hope I never have to see anything like that again," said Poole, now 43 and a school resource officer at Thomas E. Weightman Middle School.

Cpl. William Vedral

He was off duty that day and at home taking care of his newborn daughter when he heard about the attack. His wife came home to take care of their daughter, and he left to help. At first, he was sent to a hospital to help with crowd control. Officials thought there would be lots of survivors. As the night wore on, they realized there wouldn't be. He remembers family members coming to him with photos of loved ones, asking whether he'd seen them. When he got to the scene of the attack, the buildings were still on fire.

"The best way to describe it was hell," he said.

Vedral, who is now 49 and a resource officer at Wiregrass Ranch High, feels sorrow when he thinks of Sept. 11. He moved his family to Florida because he didn't feel safe in New York anymore. But he doesn't feel safe here either. "It can happen anywhere," he said.

Erin Sullivan can be reached at esullivan@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6229.

BY ERIN SULLIVAN

Times Staff Writer

Three Pasco sheriff's deputies worked as New York City Police officers on 9/11. None of them knew each other before coming to Pasco. They came here to get out of the cold, to live some place new and different.

They all responded to the World Trade Center after the terrorist attacks. They all described it as hell; like being in a movie about the end of days. They all lost friends. They don't often talk of what happened but they did earlier this week. They don't want people to forget.

Sgt. David Leon

He's 43 now and has asthma from the debris he inhaled sifting remains of the buildings for weeks. His doctor told him warm weather would be better for his lungs. He worked in the Bronx. He remembers the smell of smoke and jet fuel. He remembers people jumping from the buildings and slamming on the ground. He remembers screaming.

He hasn't gone back to Ground Zero since his tour ended in the immediate weeks after the attack.

"I haven't had the strength," he said.

He doesn't watch 9/11 anniversary coverage on TV. He doesn't fly anymore. He drives.

Cpl. Erica Poole

She couldn't understand why her body felt like it was on fire when she got in the shower and then she looked: She had been cut by tiny shards of glass, head to toe, after spending 20 hours at the scene that first day. Her uniform was covered.

Poole began the day patrolling Harlem with her partner. She believes in hunches and instincts and she never got any bad vibes that morning. It was normal.

She said the scene looked like the end of the world.

"I hope I never have to see anything like that again," said Poole, now 43 and a school resource officer at Thomas E. Weightman Middle School.

Cpl. William Vedral

He was off duty that day and at home taking care of his newborn daughter when he heard about the attack. His wife came home, took their daughter and he left to help. At first he was sent to a hospital to help with crowd control. They thought there would be many survivors. As the night wore on, they realized there wouldn't be. He remembers family members coming to him with photos of loved ones, asking if he'd seen them. When he got to the scene of the attack, the buildings were still on fire.

"The best way to describe it was hell," he said.

Vedral, who is now 49 and is a resource officer at Wiregrass Ranch High School, feels sorrow when he thinks of 9/11. He moved his family to Florida because he didn't feel safe in New York anymore. But he doesn't feel safe here either.

"It can happen anywhere," he said.

Erin Sullivan can be reached at esullivan@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6229.

9/11 still haunts three Pasco residents who were responders 09/10/11 [Last modified: Saturday, September 10, 2011 10:11pm]
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