2 local law enforcement officers remember responding to the 9/11 attacks

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — Remembering what they called "controlled chaos”, two local police officers relive the moments they arrived on the ground at the World Trade Center to help on 9/11.

News10NBC spoke with them 20 years later where they recall the terrifying moments in history from their eyes.

"I can still remember the sun trying to shine through the dust that was still in the air, and the smell I’ll never forget,” said Monroe County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Michael Fowler.

"I remember clearly, my brother called me and we talk frequently and he told me a plane had hit one of the towers,” said New York State Police Trooper Mark O’Donnell.

Going back to 2001, while trying to process what he heard, O’Donnell told us he didn’t want to believe it was an act of terrorism.

"I imagined a small prop plane, not knowing what they’re doing, hit a tower, and I got back to my station and we watched it on TV, and right then we knew we were going to be sent,” O’Donnell said.

Being on the ground, in the middle of disarray, debris, and so much suffering, made rescue efforts difficult.

"What’s especially hard for me is remembering the family members that came up with pictures of their loved ones and said please look for this person please look for them,” Fowler added.

Not a day goes by where the tragedy of September 11th doesn’t cross their mind. O’Donnell wears a pin as a constant reminder, not for pain, but for significance.

"We want people to remember the importance of 9/11 and pay respect to the individuals who sacrificed pretty much knowing when they’re running into that building that the likelihood of not surviving was real,” O’Donnell said.

“We just want people to share the story with the next generations so they recognize the sacrifice,” Fowler said.