At 9/11 service, local man reflects on his service at ground zero

Sep 11, 2019

Leaders and residents gathered Wednesday at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Highland Park to honor the victims of 9/11 and the wars that followed. 

For one local man, the aftermath of the attacks is still very much with him. 

Jeff Klein said he is a retired Monroe County Sheriff’s deputy and Navy reservist who now works at the Veterans Outreach Center as a facilities coordinator. For him, the devastation of 9/11 wasn’t something he just saw on television -- he lived it. 

“We got a governor recall from Governor Pataki,” Klein said. “He was looking for reservists who were willing to go to ground zero for recovery efforts.”

So he and a few other fellow reservists raised their hands.

It was October 2001, and the towers were still on fire. He said about six stories of rubble were left and he worked 14-hour days guarding bridges, tunnels and train stations. 

With tears in his eyes, he recalled a makeshift deck at ground zero that the victims’ family members used to say goodbye.

“This little kid wrote a note to his mom and it said, ‘I’m sorry for the fight we got in that morning.’ So I make it a point to never leave the house or go to bed without a kiss and hug and just saying ‘I love you,’ ” said Klein. 

Klein says he hopes 9/11 remembrances continue so it’s not just a chapter in a textbook for future generations.

Laura Stradley, the leader of the Veterans Outreach Center, agreed that it’s important to continue such commemorations to acknowledge those who died on that day and the lingering aftereffects on the country.