Ground zero responders remember 9/11

An oral history project records the memories of responders and documents history by the people who lived it

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Here are a few of the harrowing memories Luft has captured:

"When the building imploded down it blew me out of the building, and I was able to hold onto the doorway with my left arm," former police officer Paukner said.

"The first thing I found was an entire body, burned into rebar," said former NYPD police officer Christine Famiglietti.

Extra: Realizing the day's magnitude

"They ah, they put a line around our waist," recalled former NYPD Emergency Services Unit officer William "Bill" Fischer. "It wasn't to pull us out, it was just to find us if we died."

"Where we expected to see two tall buildings, we just saw a skeleton," said volunteer firefighter Jim Vaz. "The most powerful nation in the world. How could this happen?"

Extra: Searching Ground Zero

Dr. Luft told Pelley that he does not think that there is a clearer rendition of what happened at Ground Zero on 9/11 than the histories he has captured.

"Who are these people?" Pelley asked.

Firefighters, police officers, EMS workers, volunteers, ironworkers, construction workers, laborers, Luft replied. "On 9/11 all Americans responded, from all walks of life," he said.

Alex Nikulin was a 16-year-old senior at a high school in the Bronx.

"I realized I had to go down there," said Nikulin. "I don't know how I'm going to help, I don't know what I can do."

"My whole family is cops," said William "Bill" Fischer. "I'm the thirteenth in my family bein' a New York City police officer."

"I am a licensed massage therapist," said Terese Wunderlich. "I just felt like I had to be down there helping these people, knowing what I do for a living can help these people."

"I work for NYC highway department," said Kenneth George. "I, you know, roadwork, construction, stuff like that. I never trained for anything like this. And, I learned quick though."

"60 Minutes" spent a few hours with some of the responders at Stony Brook University. As their stories unfolded, it became evident that - for them - September 11, 2011 isn't the tenth anniversary of something that happened, it's the tenth year of something that never ends. In a sense, it's always 9/11.

John Gallagher is a former New York City fire captain suffering with pulmonary fibrosis, a scarring of the lungs that progressively gets worse.

"The World Trade Center is still claiming lives," said Gallagher. "People have had their lives shortened. People have lost their fathers, their, their mothers to cancers, to lung diseases, anything that you can imagine, blood-borne diseases. People are still dying."

Of the eleven individuals interviewed by Pelley, only one did not raise their hand when asked if they had a medical condition as a result of the work they did during 9/11.

Pelley asked Bill Fischer to give him a sense of what he has been going through, health-wise.

"I have asthma," Fischer said. "I have nodules on both lungs, sinusitis, rhinitis."

Fischer is now retired from the NYPD and says that his medical conditions are not a result of an unhealthy lifestyle.

"I never smoked, I don't drink," Fischer said. "I go to the gym as often as I can and it's not as much as I would like to anymore. I literally have a bucket of about 20 medicines, a plastic bucket that I have to take somethin' durin' the day."

Fischer worked at Ground Zero for four months. In a photograph, he - like thousands of others - can be seen covered in dust that contained carcinogens, asbestos and toxins too numerous to list.

Kenneth George was there too. He helped recover human remains.