9/11 first responders haunted by ground zero but say they're not heroes

(CBS News) NEW YORK - The calendar says it's been a decade since that last steel beam was removed from ground zero. But Mike Mazziotti will leave it to others to mark the date.

When asked what he saw on 9/11 that left him with post traumatic stress, Mazziotti simply says: "What didn't I see?"

Mazziotti was a cop with a chest full of medals and a first responder on 9/11. Looking out from the 20th floor of the north tower, he saw a desperate man leap to his death.

"I saw a guy, he was a man obviously, but I remember he was wearing a tweed jacket and was flapping his arms like a duck," Mazziotti said. "He was just flying through the air."

He was never the same. Within a year, Mazziotti -- once the life of the party -- was retired on disability and reading a book a day to silence the demons.

"The only people benefiting from my retirement is Barnes and Noble. That's it," said Mazziotti, who added that he just wants some peace and to be "back to being happy days but..."

Retired NYPD officer Bill Beaury spent four months on the pile, as the mess of twisted metal and concrete at ground zero was called.

"It was difficult. It was very hot. It was dusty. It was smoky," Beaury said.

Beaury was on the pile looking for the remains of a colleague, Ronnie Kloepher.

Beaury said the fact that he never found Ronnie's remains "bothers me because there's nowhere for me just to go."

Like Mazziotti, Beaury retired 10 years ago, having left a little too much of himself on the pile.

"I did my job," Beaury said of the months he spent after 9/11 on the pile.

That might as well be the motto of the first responders:

"I was doing my job. I was doing what I was trained to do," Mazziotti said.

When asked if it offers him any comfort to know he did his job and saved some lives, Mazziotti said: "Until you asked the question, I never really thought about it. And all's I was doing was what I was trained to do."

They may not see it as heroic but 10 years later, there still doesn't seem to be a better word.

  • Jim Axelrod

    Jim Axelrod is the senior national correspondent for CBS News, reporting for "CBS This Morning," the "CBS Evening News," "CBS Sunday Morning," and other CBS News broadcasts.