Dougherty Co. coroner recounts being at Ground Zero the day after 9/11

Everyone was looking for their loved one': Dougherty Co. coroner recounts being at ground zero in NY

ALBANY, Ga. (WALB) - One of Dougherty County’s own was working at Ground Zero less than 24 hours after the World Trade Center was hit.

Eighteen years later, Dougherty County Coroner Michael Fowler shared his experience identifying the bodies of those who lost their lives.

Dougherty County Coroner Michael Fowler reflects on his time at Ground Zero.
Dougherty County Coroner Michael Fowler reflects on his time at Ground Zero. (Source: WALB)

“Every time during recovery, when the life of a first responder was found, they sounded a horn and they stop everybody from working,” said Fowler.

A total of 3,000 people lost their lives when terrorists attacked the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.

“We got a call that the towers’ been hit,” Fowler said.

Thinking it was some cruel joke, Fowler rushed to the t.v.

No one laughed at what they saw.

“Then we got phone calls from around the world," Fowler said. "We need to pack our bags. We need to come to New York.”

As part of a disaster relief team, Fowler was sent to identify the bodies.

But it wasn’t bodies the team found.

“You wonder who this leg belongs to. We had to identify thousands of body parts that came through,” Fowler said.

He searched through the rubble left at Ground Zero.

“Because we wouldn’t want to send the wrong person to the family and it was not their loved one,” Fowler said.

A scene more difficult to be a part of than anyone could imagine.

Even for someone who constantly works with the dead.

Dougherty County Coroner Michael Fowler reflects on his time at Ground Zero.
Dougherty County Coroner Michael Fowler reflects on his time at Ground Zero. (Source: WALB)

“People don’t understand what those people felt. Everyone was looking for their loved one," Fowler said. "They didn’t know if they were alive or not. Were they under the rubbish trying to get out?”

Children chased after first responders with pictures in hand. They screamed with tear-filled faces.

“'Where’s momma, where’s daddy?' It was just overwhelming. That’s one of the worst disasters I’ve ever worked,” Fowler said, recalling some of the worst scenes he saw.

Three thousand lives lost, 343 firefighters, 71 law enforcement officers and 18 years later, no one has forgotten.

Fowler continues to present pictures from the aftermath of 9/11.

He wants to make sure students and those who weren’t alive when the towers were hit to always remember those who lost their lives.

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