JACKSONVILLE, Fla – Special agents and staff at the FBI Jacksonville office took part in a somber ceremony to recognize the 20th anniversary of the attacks on September 11, 2001.
Special Agent in Charge Rachel Rojas hosted the ceremony in front of the memorial wall for fallen agents at the regional office. Several other FBI employees who responded to the attacks laid flowers at the monument.
Nationwide, 18 FBI employees have died as a result of the direct attacks or illness connected to their response to the scene, the agency noted. Many of the deaths were cancer-related.
Nearly 4,000 FBI special agents and 3,000 FBI professional staff employees were part of the terror investigations in the days following the attack.
Among those were Special Agent Alex Silverstein who arrived at the Pentagon within minutes of the crash. Now assigned to the Jacksonville office, Silverstein was working in Washington D.C. when a plane hit the Pentagon.
“We ran down to the parking garage, I think I threw on overalls over my suit and we headed out to the Pentagon,” Silverstein recalled in an interview with News4Jax. “Lights and sirens, down under the Third Street tunnel.”
Silverstein said he had been called to New York City for the World Trade Center attack just minutes before. The crisis at the Pentagon kept him in Washington.
“We pulled up and the building was on fire,” Silverstein said. “The entire side of the building was on fire. We could see plain parts laying in the lawn there and while we were there we saw the roof collapse, so we knew at that point that anybody who had not gotten out already, they weren’t coming out. There is no training for what I saw.”
Silverstein said he recovered key evidence in the case and human remains. He wrote letters to the families of the victims he recovered.
“I wrote to their families just to let them know when their family members were found that they weren’t alone,” he said. “And that we treated them with respect.”
Click here to read more stories from the FBI on 9/11.