September 11, 2001. A day that will be remembered in U.S. history for as long as we all shall live. For one Southmoreland police officer Greg Keefer, the day is one that has a closer meaning.
“I was at an impound lot finishing up a case that I had on a stolen skidloader,” said Mr. Keefer of a case he was investigating in Somerset County as a member of the Pennsylvania State Police. ”Everyone got called into the office as soon the first jet hit the first tower.”
September 11 will go down in history deadliest terror attack in our nation’s history.
As parents, children, and workers woke up to what they thought was going to be a normal day, tragedy struck in the state as well as city of New York. Two flights were hijacked by terrorists and flown into the World Trade Center in the center of New York City, killing 2,606 people.
There were also attacks at the Pentagon in Washington D.C. as well as a plane crash into a field in Shanksville Pennsylvania. With all three attacks together, the total number of people killed in America’s deadliest terror attack reached 2,996.
As the troops crowded into to watch what they thought was aftermath, tragedy continued as a second place crashed into the towers.
“Once the second jet hit we got a call out for all available troops to report to the scene,”said Mr. Keefer.
As the team of troops were sent out, Mr. Keefer was one of the first to arrive on scene in Shanksville.
“I was the first responder there,”said Mr. Keefer.”The (plane) was still smoking, but there was much there because of the accordion effect that took place with the crash.”
With the force that had taken place with the plane crashing into the ground, the pieces of the plane were scattered about. As the crew arrived, pieces of body parts were also found scattered in the rubble.
The crew set up the inner and outer perimeter, and Mr. Keefer’s partner found what he thought to be just a normal passport, but later found it was more than that.
“He (his partner) looked down and he saw a passport lying there, so we marked it as we would a normal crime scene,”said Mr. Keefer.” Later we found out the news that we had discovered the passport of one of the terrorists who took over the plane.”
As Mr. Keefer relives the thought of this scene every year, he remains to be “proud to be a responder” on the scene.
“It was definitely a sad thing to be a part of,” said Mr. Keefer.”I’m glad and proud that I got to help with all the investigation that had to take place. I was up there for two weeks straight helping out.”
Of those two weeks, only three days after the crash had taken place, families were bused in to see the victims as well as the aftermath.
“Seeing those families and their emotion was definitely something I will never forget,”said Mr. Keefer.” We all shed tears as we watched the families and how they reacted.”
As years have gone by since the attacks took place, the thought of September 11 is never far from Mr. Keefer’s mind.
“Going to this scene and being there is one of the most memorable cases I’ve ever been on,” said Mr. Keefer.”I still go up to the memorial every September to pay tribute.”