PALM HARBOR, Fla. — On the morning of September 11, 2001, Rich Miccio was with Ladder Company 163 in Queens.
“We were all geared up. Got our tools off the rig. And our whole battalion stayed at this one spot across the street from the North Tower," said Miccio.
He says he looked up to see the top of the tower turn into a mushroom cloud and begin to come down.
“I heard all kinds of noises around me and then everything went dead silent and then everything went pitch black. I couldn’t see anything.”
Rich survived that day. And now lives a quiet retired life in Pasco County.
“I’ve been going to therapy for years and years and years and I will continue to do that. I go once a week. It’s not a thing that goes away. It’s not a thing that you get used to. You just learn to deal with it," Rich said.
Now, Rich helps other retired New York City firefighters living in the area.
Louis Kikis worked in the Bronx and spent days going through the rubble.
“It was just search and recovery. Found a lot of bodies. That’s all we found. And a couple of days later it was just recovery," said Kikis.
Both of these men lost friends that day.
“My old firehouse in Manhattan, they lost nine guys," said Kikis.
They see others dying from illnesses related to being around the fallen buildings.
“I have issues but everything is stable. I have nodules on my thyroid, nodules on my lungs, but everything so far has been stable," said Miccio.
Now, 20 years have gone by so fast.
Rich won’t go back to Manhattan. He says he lives in Florida to stay out of the bullseye.
“No one gets it. That’s up here with me. When I go there, I’m on edge. I am suspicious of everyone. I’m very vigilant about things. I trust no one," Rich said.
“Blink of an eye. I can’t believe it. 20 years. And it just seems like yesterday. And as a friend once said, it will always be 9/11 to me," said Kikis.