For Honolulu paramedic Ed Caballero, the anniversary of the September 11 attacks on teh World Trade Center in 2001 is a painful reminder.
"It just relives a lot of the memories from that time," he said.
When the airliners hit the skyscrapers, Cabellero was in charge of emergency operations at Long Island College Hospital in Brooklyn Heights.
His paramedics were some of the first dispatched to the scene.
"We automatically put our hospital in disaster mode," he said.
Nothing prepared Caballero and his colleagues for what was to come.
"When you have 10 or 12 people standing there, completely engulfed in second and third degree burns, this is something you never train for," he said.
It was an event no one could really train for.
One of the collapsing towers partially crushed one of Caballero's ambulances. His paramedics survived, but other first responders Caballero knew and worked alongside were killed.
"We knew a lot of firefighters, a lot of police officers," he said. "We also knew about some paramedics that were lost."
Four firefighters, his close friends from Engine Company 226 died.
"They were just people who loved what they did. They were there to help," he said.
In the weeks following 9/11 — when he wasn't attending funerals for people he knew that were killed in the terror attacks — Caballero helped search and recovery efforts at ground zero.
He now lives on Oahu but returns to New York occasionally. When he visits the Big Apple, he purposely avoids the area the towers once stood.
"My history of the place is what it used to be, not what it is. Even after 16 years it's still tough," he said.
Caballero, 50, has been a paramedic for 31 years. He's spent the last seven with Emergency Medical Services.
This year, he spent the Sept. 11 anniversary assisting with disaster response for Hurricane Irma.
Copyright 2017 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.
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