HARRINGTON — Escorted by police, they sped up the New Jersey Turnpike toward New York City, ready to assist in any way possible.
A line of 20 ambulances left from Delaware and rushed to the area where the World Trade Center’s twin towers had crumbled due to the terrorist attacks Sept. 11, 2001.
All told, 63 area emergency medical technicians and fire rescue workers responded in the immediate aftermath of the sudden, tragic crisis.
The Delaware Emergency Management Agency had mobilized the first responders, who met at the Delaware State Fire School, west of Dover, and departed around 5:15 p.m.
Among them was Doug Poore, a Harrington resident who was a Kent County paramedic at the time.
The approach to Manhattan was shocking, he recalled recently.
“We were riding up the turnpike, and here comes the East River, and there should be two large buildings, and there was nothing there but a pile of burning building, and you could see smoke for miles,” he said. “I was like, ‘OK, I already knew it was real, and now, it’s like it isn’t even what my mind had imagined.’”
A few hours earlier, as the world-changing events began to unfold, Mr. Poore wasn’t anticipating that a day like no other in the nation’s history was ahead.
“I was like, ‘Yeah, OK, it was a pilot that screwed up, whatever,’ and just paid zero attention to it,” Mr. Poore said.
But the news rapidly turned grimmer and began to strike home for two of Mr. Poore’s co-workers, who hailed from New York.
“Watching them struggle with their own emotions and standing there watching the towers fall, I knew there was death on a scale I don’t think people were ready to quite grasp (when) a building like that does what it did and the second one comes down,” he said.
Initially, there was no comprehending what was happening.
“We were all just kind of standing there, dumbfounded. There was just no other way to put it,” Mr. Poore said.
Once reality sunk in, he remembered, “I felt anger that someone would do this, that those folks inside those towers did nothing, and yet, they lost their lives for no reason as far as I’m concerned.”
Cloaked in uncertainty, the First State’s first responders set up at the Meadowlands sports complex in East Rutherford, New Jersey, and awaited orders.
“And of course, you’re hearing all these stories of there’s more bombs, there’s more this, there’s more that, and at this point in time, the rumor mill is running fast, furious, hard and insane,” said Mr. Poore, who retired as a paramedic in 2017, after 27 years.
During his wait, there was the possibility of ambulances transporting surviving victims back to Delaware for medical care, Mr. Poore said. However, a few hours later, he returned home with the rest of the Delaware contingent without being called into service.
“I felt bad for our country, and I get the optimism and hope, but as I returned home and started watching the morning news — because when we got home it was after daybreak (Sept. 12) — and the news reporters are ... hoping this, they’re hoping that, and I’m going, ‘No, there was nobody coming out of that, just nobody.’
“A 100-story building that collapses upon itself — nobody is coming out if it.”
A maximum of three people were permitted in each responding ambulance, which were provided by the following nearby communities to assist rescue efforts in New York: Blades; Bowers Beach; Bridgeville; Cheswold; Dagsboro; Frankford; Georgetown; Greensboro, Maryland; Greenwood; Harrington; Hartly; Laurel; Leipsic; Marydel; Mid-Sussex; Millsboro; Millville; Roxana; Seaford; and Smyrna.