9/11 responders give account of their experience

Dan Harden worked in Washington D.C. as a firefighter on Sept. 11th, 2001. / Jessica Fairley

Thousands died in the wake of September 11th, but for every one that lost a life there were more who showed up to help keep the others alive.

Sharyn Lee had boarded a train headed for Philadelphia when the vessel came to an abrupt stop. As she looked over the horizon, she got a first glimpse of the catastrophe of the World Trade Center attacks.

"We saw the smoke from the first plane and we were just paralyzed," said nurse Sharyn Lee.

Stranded on a train just outside of New York, Sharyn Lee couldn't believe the view before her eyes and within minutes there was no guessing. She knew the nation was under attack.

"We saw the second tower get hit and it was absolute silence. I felt so exposed. I felt that we would be next," Sharyn said.

After hours stuck on a train, she arrived at Grand Central Station. Military servicemen lined the doors of the terminal providing no direction of course. She says everyone was on own their own at that point. When she exited the doors heading toward Madison Square Garden, the reality of what had happened sunk in.

"It was smoky, it was dusty and it was absolutely the eeriest thing in the world. There was no movement in the world," said Lee.

She wandered around the city until she finally bonded with a cab driver who helped her find a place to stay. Sharyn Lee says she couldn't sit idle in the hotel because, as a nurse, she knew her services were needed. That's when she reached out to St. Luke's Hospital.

"I called and I said that I was a nurse and what can I do. I worked in the blood bank all night. There were hundreds of people outside all night long waiting to give blood," said Nurse Lee.

While she worked in New York, firefighters in Washington D.C. fought to put out a fire at the Pentagon.

Dan Harden was one of the brave ones who risked his life to save another.

"We had people that we had to search for. We had people that were injured and needed to be at the hospital," said firefighter Dan Harden.

He says fears filled his mind but it was his duty to stay. After spending nearly two weeks on site, comfort was a luxury but he says he couldn't complain.

"I look over and see our military sleeping on the ground. It made me appreciate so much more of what we had," said Harden.

Although it's been ten years both Lee and Harden say they carry invisible scars from their experience. On occasion they say they wonder if they could've given more. Sharyn Lee says she struggles with her choice to leave New York the day after the attacks.

"I balled my eyes out the whole way home. I just couldn't believe that not only had I been there but I had left," said Sharyn Lee.