TAMPA, Fla. — It's a day he will never forget.
"When you're digging for a friend, it's a little bit different than digging for a stranger," explained Fred Mack, a retired marine and retired NYPD officer and detective.
He spent over 20 years on the force.
"I retired. I was injured in the line of duty. I got hit by a taxicab checking a rapist. I caught the guy though," he said.
Now at 75 years old, he will never forget September 11th. He was stationed right near the World Trade Center at a very young age.
"I was a young cop when they started building the World Trade Center. My command was down in the Financial Wall Street area," Mack explained.
And three weeks after the terrorist attacks, Mack was asked to volunteer and sift through the remains to help identify the countless victims, who lost their lives.
"But a lot of the cops after they worked? They slept down there. Got back up again to do more work. A lot of drinking was going on after that to put the pain away," he said with sadness.
For ten days, Mack searched Ground Zero and a landfill on Staten Island called 'The Dig', where they had moved debris from the World Trade Center. He remembers what it was like.
"That was the first time when I saw that whole city united. First time I saw this whole United States united. Everybody had skin in the game," he said.
So as the United States heads into the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks; Mack thinks about the friends and colleagues he lost on one of the darkest days in our country's history.
"They were Emergency Service cops. They were seen coming out of building twice with people and went back in when the South Tower went down," Mack said. "All six of them I worked with either as a detective or as a cop. And when I see the list of people's names, you know, it still hurts."
Now, he worries about the generations who follow, especially after what happened in Afghanistan and the fear of more terrorist attacks in the future.
"My biggest fear is my grandchildren. What world did I leave for my grandchildren? And it's scary," he admits.
So on Saturday, September 11th, Mack hopes people will come together, reflect and be grateful for all those, who paid the ultimate price.
"Life goes on but don't paint it black so you can't see it. Realize the sacrifice. We won't forget. We never will," he said.