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‘I came into a bunch of chaos’: Brattleboro police chief recalls her time at ground zero on 9/11

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Brattleboro Police Chief Norma Hardy remembers Sept. 11, 2001 like it was yesterday. She was a Port Authority officer at the time, living in Brooklyn. She wasn’t scheduled to work that morning, but like everyone, plans changed, fast. “You know, once we realized there was it wasn’t an accident, once the second plane had hit… We were mobilized. And we started coming into Manhattan,” Hardy said. As she arrived in lower Manhattan, the towers were already rubble. “I really just came out into a bunch of chaos, and people running around and really horrible scenes,” she said. her police shield around her neck, Hardy walked block by block, down streets she worked to protect for years. “I kind of think I went into shock at that point, witnessing what I was seeing,” she said. Moments later, a stranger snapped her back to reality by hand. Hardy and fellow first responders began conducting rescue missions at ground zero. The most prominent sound was firefighters’ man down alarms. “It felt like we were in like a tunnel,” Hardy said. “Because it was like you could hear every sound because you were trying to hear people screaming for help. And you kept trying to hear and we walked, and people were digging with their hands, and they were picking up blocks with their hands. They were fires everywhere.” For days on end, the searching went on, the smoke and debris endless. “Your mind plays a trick on you,” Hardy said. “So, you think that you can hear people? And you really didn’t. It was just that we wanted to find people so badly. That’s what we thought we were hearing.” The Port Authority Police Department lost 37 officers on just that day. One of Hardy’s best friends, 50-year-old John Dennis Levi, was one of them. They continue to lose officers years later due to illnesses contracted from ground zero. “I have quite a few friends that are fighting different cancers,” Hardy said. While some are still fighting their own 9/11 battles, some of Hardy’s young officers can “I spoke to some of my officers, and they were little kids when this happened,” she said. For Hardy, the story never changes. Her memories serve as a reminder that those who answered the call of duty on that fateful day will always be remembered. “If you don’t have people left who can tell you firsthand accounts of it, I’m afraid that it will get lost in history,” she said.

Brattleboro Police Chief Norma Hardy remembers Sept. 11, 2001 like it was yesterday. She was a Port Authority officer at the time, living in Brooklyn. She wasn’t scheduled to work that morning, but like everyone, plans changed, fast.

“You know, once we realized there was it wasn’t an accident, once the second plane had hit… We were mobilized. And we started coming into Manhattan,” Hardy said.

As she arrived in lower Manhattan, the towers were already rubble.

“I really just came out into a bunch of chaos, and people running around and really horrible scenes,” she said.

With her police shield around her neck, Hardy walked block by block, down streets she worked to protect for years.

“I kind of think I went into shock at that point, witnessing what I was seeing,” she said.

Moments later, a stranger snapped her back to reality by hand. Hardy and fellow first responders began conducting rescue missions at ground zero. The most prominent sound was firefighters’ man down alarms.

“It felt like we were in like a tunnel,” Hardy said. “Because it was like you could hear every sound because you were trying to hear people screaming for help. And you kept trying to hear and we walked, and people were digging with their hands, and they were picking up blocks with their hands. They were fires everywhere.”

For days on end, the searching went on, the smoke and debris endless.

“Your mind plays a trick on you,” Hardy said. “So, you think that you can hear people? And you really didn’t. It was just that we wanted to find people so badly. That’s what we thought we were hearing.”

The Port Authority Police Department lost 37 officers on that day. One of Hardy’s best friends, 50-year-old John Dennis Levi, was one of them. They continue to lose officers years later due to illnesses contracted from ground zero.

“I have quite a few friends that are fighting different cancers,” Hardy said.

While some are still fighting their own 9/11 battles, some of Hardy’s young officers can’t comprehend how our nation changed that sunny day.

“I spoke to some of my officers, and they were little kids when this happened,” she said.

For Hardy, the story never changes. Her memories serve as a reminder that those who answered the call of duty on that fateful day will always be remembered.

“If you don’t have people left who can tell you firsthand accounts of it, I’m afraid that it will get lost in history,” she said.

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