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Peoria 9/11 first responder remembers ‘overwhelming sense of loss’

A U.S. flag hanging from a steel girder, damaged in the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center, blows in the breeze at a memorial in Jersey City, N.J., Sept. 11, 2019 as the sun rises behind One World Trade Center building and the re-developed area where the Twin Towers of World Trade Center once stood in New York City on the 18th anniversary of the attacks. (AP Photo/J. David Ake)

PHOENIX — Retired Peoria Fire Capt. Maureen Shannon arrived to ground zero in New York City days after the 9/11 attacks in 2001.

“It was just complete devastation. It was unbelievable to see it in person,” she told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Arizona’s Morning News on Wednesday, the 18th anniversary of the terrorist plane crashes that killed more than 3,000 people.

“The enormity of it all, the smells, the overwhelming sense of loss. That’s what I felt.”

Shannon spent 10 days there as a K9 search specialist on the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Task Force 1 team.

She said her K9 partner acted as a “counselor” for her and her colleagues.

“No one spoke a word. It was so quiet, but it was loud,” she said.

Shannon didn’t leave the site with only memories.

She has been diagnosed with reactive airways dysfunction syndrome, one of the conditions recognized by the World Trade Center Health Program as stemming from toxins at ground zero.

Although healthy otherwise, “… I do suffer from this respiratory disease, and it affects me,” she said.

Symptoms of the disease include wheezing, shortness of breath and excess mucus.

Despite her consistent cough, she continues to work part-time as a firefighter in northern Arizona.

“One foot in front of the other, we keep going. We focus on the task,” she said.

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