TAMPA, Fla — Mark Bogush remembers smelling it before he ever saw it.
"The diesel exhaust, the fires burning, the concrete dust,” the Tampa Fire Rescue assistant chief remembers.
On Sept. 14, 2001, Bogush set foot on Ground Zero in Lower Manhattan where the World Trade Center had once stood. He’d never before been to New York City.
He never could’ve imagined what he was about to see.
“It was something that compared to a movie set,” Bogush said. “It was nothing that any firefighter had ever trained for."
A lieutenant at the time with Tampa Fire Rescue, Bogush was dispatched as part of FEMA’s South Florida Urban Search and Rescue team. He and his K-9 partner, Marley, worked seven days straight, 12 hours a day, searching the ruins for remains, he said.
On the 18th anniversary of the terrorist attacks, Bogush reflects on an experience he’s now shared many times over.
“All of those memories, even the smells and all those things come flooding back like it just happened,” Bogush said.
“In your entire lifetime, there’s maybe a handful of things that you remember that vividly and this is one of those occurrences."
Today, remembering also means recognizing the long-term, sometimes unseen, toll.
The Centers for Disease Control estimates as many as 400,000 people were exposed to cancer-causing toxins and physical and emotional stress like PTSD the months following the attack.
Many of those impacted are first responders and volunteers who got sick or died. They are now being recognized with a new 9/11 Memorial Glade located in the 9/11 Memorial Plaza in Manhattan. The memorial features six massive blocks of stone, called monoliths, symbolizing resilience.
Bogush was grateful to be there for the dedication in May, coinciding with the 17th anniversary of the official end of the recovery effort at Ground Zero.
“Because I worked there and I'm still here, I'm classified as a survivor, which really just hit me hard,” Bogush said. “I never looked at myself as a survivor, I just looked at myself as a first responder who came and did what he was supposed to do."
A powerful photo of Bogush with his K-9 partner working at Ground Zero was recently chosen to be featured on a series of limited-edition Metro Cards for New York's subway system. The photo was taken by photojournalist Andrea Booher, who was a photographer at the time for FEMA.
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