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The brave ones behind the uniform share their 9/11 stories

Some Tennessee first responders shared their experiences of Sept. 11, and how it changed their lives.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — This weekend marks the 20th anniversary of 9/11, and local first responders share their stories of what it was like at the time of the attacks.

"It was hard to breathe. It was dusty. It was dirty," Philip Russo said.

The images that many of us watched from home are visuals of what Russo experienced firsthand.

"You saw suburban officers directing traffic and checking IDs to make sure you were supposed to be going into the city," Russo said. "It was like, 'Wait a minute.'"

He was a sergeant with the New York Police Department at the time. He spent weeks at ground zero helping victims and clearing rubble.

"You were just filling buckets with debris and passing them down the line so they could go into the vehicles where they were going to be taken to where they would be sorted," Russo said.

CW4 Mary Deel with the Tennessee Army National Guard also remembered that day. She was in Sarajevo, Bosnia, at the time.

"They sent all of the locals off the base. They weren't sure if everyone was under attack … or what was going on," Deel said. "We just started adopting a different battle rhythm with our work. We couldn't leave a post. We could call home when we could get phone lines. It was hard to get phone lines out."

While they continue to share their stories, they both look back on that day, understanding the significance that came after.

"It's not that it goes away, but you realize that life goes on, and you have to adapt," said Russo.

"It's amazing how that one event not only changed our country, but it changed the world," Deel said.

This story was originally reported by WSMV in Nashville.

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