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Former Saginaw Police Officer, Reflects On Assisting With 9/11 Search and Rescue With K-9 Partner

(CBS DETROIT)- While New Yorkers were rushing to escape the area around the World Trade Center during the 9/11 attacks.

Brave firefighters and 1st responders headed directly toward the danger, in an effort to saves lives.

"I had friends that were there that were New York Police officers, State Trooper for New York, and just buddies that you know through your career," said retired Saginaw Police Officer Joaquin Guerrero.

A Saginaw police officer at the time Guerrero, like many of us was glued to the television watching these tragic events unfold.

Then all of a sudden, the towers collapsed, trapping first responders under tons of rubble.

Without a second thought Guerrero knew he had to head to New York.

"That's when I made the contact call told them who I was, where I was from and I had a tool that they could use which is a search dog, they said get down here as soon as possible," Guerrero said.

Guerrero, along with his 8 year old K-9 partner Rookie, drove for 15 hours straight until they reached New York City.

"We met a Giant Stadium then they gave us a police escort down to ground zero or the piles they would say the piles what we call it," said Guerrero.

The piles would be an understatement, he describes the catastrophe scene at ground zero.

"Everything was destroyed there and that's what's so hard to comprehend until you see it its like a if a bomb went off and just boom. 16 acres radius, and the debris, they found debris all the way up to 33rd street," Guerrero explains.

Which he says is about a mile away. After years of training Guerrero says he wasn't prepared for his findings in the rubble.

"It's hard because human body parts would be found," said Guerrero.

Unfortunately, the search didn't get any easier, and after 8, grueling 12 to 14 hour days, Guerrero did not find any survivors.

This hit him hard, but after returning home, another tragedy.

"When it came back, it came back with a vengeance, and it came back hard and fast, I kinda this because from there it went to the lung," said an emotional Guerrero.

Rookie developed a brain tumor that progressively got worse and spread. Like many 1st responders who survived the world trade attack, Rookie suffered from long-term affects after breathing the tainted air around the ground zero site, and passed away in June of 2003.

"18 hours a day I was with my dog, it was like your heart got ripped out," Guerrero said.

But Rookie's memory lives on in his iconic photo and memorabilia on display at the Castle Museum in Saginaw.

"My work gloves are here also that I wore when I was down there," said Guerrero.

Guerrero is now retired from the force, but is not ready to hang up the leach just yet.

He continues training dogs in Mid-Michigan, although; he'll never forget the ultimate sacrifice made by his partner and best friend.

"Yes I lost my partner, but he served his purpose, I have to deal with that everyday," said Guerrero

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