TAMPA, Fla. — As we mark the 19th anniversary of the deadly terror attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, our country once again unites to honor the heroes who risked, and even lost their lives. Some of those heroes now live right here in Tampa Bay.
“It’s something maybe you thought you’d see in a movie, but now you’re really standing right in front of it,” said Deputy Rudy Bueno, with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, and former officer for NYPD.
On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, Deputy Rudy Bueno had just finished an overnight shift with the New York Police Department, when his phone started to ring.
“‘Turn the TV on,' the first tower was on fire. I’m like, 'ok,' I’m not processing what I’m watching, all I see is a burning building, and then I see a plane, the second plane hit, and I’m like, ‘what just happened,’” said Deputy Bueno.
It’s a scene hard to comprehend even 19 years later, but Rudy suited up and ran toward the place everyone else was running from.
“Between trying to breathe, and trying to center yourself on where exactly you’re standing, because everything was gone, it was almost like your equilibrium was off. You just could not tell where you were at,” said Deputy Bueno.
Rina DePinto was one of the thousands trying to escape a nearby building. She worked at 1 Liberty Plaza in an office on the 5th floor.
“All I did was look up, and someone said, ‘a plane hit the building,’ I said ‘absolutely not,’” said Rina DePinto.
Her husband Dominick sat in shock as he watched the events unfold on TV, while he held his two-month-old daughter and prayed that his wife and friends would make it home. Rina did, but Dominick’s best friend David LeMagne, an officer for the New York Port Authority, wasn’t as lucky.
“The last picture of David alive, he was carrying a woman out of the tower on a door. He handed her off, turned back around and ran into the building where he was killed,” said Dominick DePinto.
Dominick was a patrol officer for the Union City Police Department in New Jersey at the time, and once he knew his wife was safe, his first instincts were to get to work and help people.
“Our job was just to hold people together. We just let people know that there was support... We were getting hysterical calls. ‘Terrorists are in my building, I can’t find my mother,'" said Dominick.
Today, they’re once again pausing to remember the moment the world felt like it stopped, and hoping everyone else never forgets.
“People made sacrifices, and that sacrifice, for some of them, cost their lives, but, you’ve got to stand for something,” said Deputy Bueno.