ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — 20 years ago, Michael Fowler was getting ready for an afternoon shift on the job right here in Monroe County when he heard the news.
A second plane hit the World Trade Center.
From that moment, he knew it was not going to be a normal workday.
“It was very Sobering, first of all your upset, you’re upset that this could happen on American soil,” he said.
Michael Fowler is now Chief Deputy with MCSO. 20 years ago he worked in the department while also serving for the New York Army National Guard.
As soon as Fowler saw the TV that day, he says there was no time to think.
“I had to start switching my uniform from a sheriffs office uniform to an army uniform,” he said. “I got the call to deport and go into NYC.”
His most vivid memories: driving down the West Side Highway, seeing strangers approach him with pictures of loved ones, pleading him to keep an eye out.
“It was tough, you don’t forget things like that,” he said. “You can see the affect of those attacks, how significant they were.”
The thought of a possible war, in the back of Fowler’s mind that day. He knew the country was headed there, and it was heartbreaking.
The 20th anniversary, bringing mixed emotions for him.
“I carry the pain with me, but I don’t want it to go away, I want to remember, pay respects to those victims and those families,” he said.
One of the biggest life lessons: the power of resilience.
“We did come back, we did, and we rebuilt tower in that site, we have a beautiful memorial honoring those sacrifices, as a country we recovered,” he said.
Fowler spent about 5 months down in New York City helping with the aftermath.
He says he’s doing everything he can to educate his daughter on how 9/11 changed our nation forever.