In this Dec. 21, 2001, file photo, recovery and cleanup workers and their machinery continue to clear the site of the Sept. 11 attacks on New York’s World Trade Center. Elizabeth Reeves, who was a first responder in New York at the time and now living in Topsham, will speak at a memorial ceremony marking the 20th anniversary of the attacks Saturday. AP Photo/Richard Drew, File

This Saturday, the nation will pause in solemn remembrance of 9/11, marking 20 years since the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil killed nearly 3,000 people, including more than 400 first responders.

The memories of that dark day cuts deep for people like Topsham paramedic and firefighter Elizabeth Reeves, who was working as an emergency medical technician with the New York Fire Department when the attack occurred.

Reeves said she was on duty at Harlem FDNY Emergency and Medical Service Station when somebody ran into the station and said that a plane had hit one of the towers at the World Trade Center.

“My crew and I immediately got on to our ambulances and went to the scene,” said Reeves. “Already by then, the radio announcements were being made, and everything around was crazy. No one could ever have expected the massive loss of life and destruction that occurred in a single day.” 

Reeves said she had seen many incidents and cases as a paramedic, but when she and her crew arrived in lower Manhattan, the effects of the attack were overwhelming.

“We get to see some horrible things as part of our job,” she said. “People run to get over by trains at subways, buses crashes, taxis jumping, drowning in the river and getting stabbed, but the 9/11 incident was just different and sad. It’s hard to process.”

Reeves said when they reached the scene, all they saw was destruction. “If I can correctly recall, when we reached the World Trade Center site, we saw people frantically digging through the rubble to find survivors. Everything around was chaotic and in complete destruction. I had never seen anything on this scale.”

Reeves said she was focused on doing what she could to help. 

“There is no room for emotion on those types of jobs,” said Reeves. “I saw family members of the deceased shattered. None of us had ever seen or imagined that two giant towers full of people, who just went to work would be destroyed. It was sadness all over.”

She lost many of her co-workers but couldn’t keep track of the number, said Reeves.

“FDNY is a big department. We didn’t know who was alive and who was not. After the incident, we realized many staff members were missing, and that is when we got to know that they died in the terror attack,” said Reeves. 

Though it was difficult for her to cope with the entire situation after the incident, it did not take her long to come out of the trauma.

“It’s all about relatability,” said Reeves. “A lot of cops, firefighters, and EMS staff come across many things on duty. We don’t go and share it with our families and put pictures in their heads. We deal it our way.”

While many of her colleagues took psychiatrist help to cope with the entire situation, Reeves said she never had any coping mechanism. All she did was do a lot of physical activity and running, which she thinks has helped her.

She moved to Maine in 2006.

Reeves currently works as a paramedic and firefighter at the Topsham Fire and Rescue and lives with her husband in Brunswick.

She will be speaking at the 9/11 memorial service in Topsham Saturday. Other speakers include will include Topsham Fire Chief Chris McLaughlin, Police Chief Marc Hagan and Topsham Town Manager Derek Scrapchansky, who was serving in the United States Navy as a pilot at the time of the attacks.

The ceremony begins at 8:30 a.m. at the Town Hall and at the Public Service building at 100 Main St.

As part of the Memorial, following the speakers, the names of each of the victims of the 9/11 attacks will be read.

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