TAMPA, Fla. — Damon Ploncynski was just 23 years old on September 11, 2001, and less than a year on the job as a patrolman with the New York City Police Department.
When he arrived at "Ground Zero" he saw a nightmare come to life.
“It kind of looked like a painting of an apocalypse. It was in black and white because the dust it was that gray, that pulverized concrete. And it stuck to everything," said Ploncynski.
Damon spent weeks after the attacks, working rescue and recovery, at the morgue, then at the landfill sifting and sorting through the debris.
“And it was our job to pick and choose what could identify another person.”
He said there were body parts, clothing and wallets coming down a conveyer belt.
“My position was the last position on that belt. So if a ring, a shield or any type of identifiable material had gotten past the last four people on my side, I was really your last chance of being identified before that debris went into a pile and was taken to a pile to be buried.”
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Damon recently retired from the NYPD, moved to Florida and took a job as a training specialist with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.
He looks back on 20 years ago and remembers the wall of flyers for the missing. He also remembers how the tragedy unified the nation.
“It’s something that resonated with me. And it’s very unfortunate that it took something so terrible to bring that unity about. But 9/11, I also feel a little bit of hope when I remember that unity. And I remember everybody coming together.”