Anne Arundel County

From sifting through debris to relieving patrols, Anne Arundel police grateful to have helped in New York after 9/11

After the horror of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, many people felt compelled to help in any way they could. Some Anne Arundel County police had the opportunity to assist New York City police in the weeks that followed. The officers remember a unifying sense of patriotism in wake of the immense tragedy. Anne Arundel County officers reflected on 9/11 as the 20-year anniversary approached.

The officers said they would never forget the images, experiences and people they met on that day. Here are some of their stories:



Chris Anderson was a 23-year-old sergeant in the Marines stationed at the Pentagon when a plane slammed into the building’s outer wall on Sept. 11, 2001. Anderson, now a corporal with the Anne Arundel County police department, was in an office on the other side of the Pentagon that day.

Anderson and his fellow Marines were listening to a local radio station reporting on the twin tower crash when hijacked Flight 77 barreled into the building, ultimately killing 189 people. There was no sound on the east end of the Pentagon, a 6.5 million square foot building secured by concrete. No alarms sounded or lights flickered.


Anderson heard about the attack when another Marine, sweaty and shocked pale white, rushed into an office with the news.

“When we finally made it outside you could see the devastation and the chaos that was occurring,” Anderson said. “It literally looked like something out of a film. It was just unspeakable, just thick black smoke. People running, crying, chaos, hysteria, it was pretty unreal.”

Anderson began triaging injured civilians and military personnel in a center courtyard.

“There were so many people there. So many people,” he said.

Anderson can’t bring himself to watch documentaries or footage from that day. On Sept. 11, 2019, he wrote on an American flag the names of 125 civilian and military members that died in the Pentagon and the 64 passengers who died aboard the Boeing 757.

He carried the flag for 44 miles in 11 hours from the WWII memorial in Annapolis to the 9/11 memorial at the Pentagon, stopping along the way to honor the intervals of time thousands of people died 18 years earlier.

“It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done mentally and physically,” Anderson said. “At the end, I felt like I took care of a lot of things and offloaded some things that I’ve carried with me.”

“It definitely is something that will stick with me until the day that I die.”


When Anderson thinks of 9/11, he chooses to remember the large American flag draped over the impact site at the Pentagon in the days after the attack. That day and ever since, the image spurs a sense of resiliency and pride.

“To see that it was displayed like that, to me, it kind of felt like a middle finger to the face of the cowards that did it,” Anderson said. “Out of all of that darkness and all that occurred, it was light.”

Words can’t describe it

The air was quiet around Baltimore Washington International Airport on Sept. 11, 2001, Capt. Daniel Rodriguez remembers.

All flights in the country were grounded after the terrorist attack. And for a county with its own soundtrack of planes humming and roaring toward the international airport, the silence was eerie.

“Every so often that silence would be broken by fighter jets that would be flying over the area providing protective missions around the east coast and around D.C. It was just so surreal to think the environment we were in at that time was fighter jets having to patrol over our shores,” Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez, now a captain who commands Anne Arundel County’s special operations division, was teaching recruits at the police academy when the twin towers were hit. His wife has family from Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where Flight 93 crashed after passengers fought hijackers.


New York police officials reached out to police and fire departments around the country for help after the attack. County police officers quickly volunteered and Rodriquez was selected to join the first shift dispatched to New York City. A mix-up led Rodriguez and 15 other county officers into Ground Zero of the demolished World Trade Center when they arrived, rather than a staging area away from the destruction.

“Words can’t describe it. It was just a massive crater with collapsed buildings on fire still, smoke coming out of it. It was a pile of rubble probably seven stories high that I remember,” Rodriguez said. “And the other thing was, it wasn’t just there, it was for blocks. Buildings destroyed past collapse.”

“I was shocked at how vast it was in the area. You’re talking probably 10, 15 blocks in each direction stuff was just destroyed.”

That rubble was brought by boat to Fresh Kills Landfill in Staten Island where police and first responders sifted through the debris looking for human remains, airplane parts and personal possessions – anything that could help identify a missing person. Anne Arundel County officers came to relieve New York officers, devastated and depleted, from having to search for the remains of their fellow residents.

Thousands of missing posters and memorials were posted around the city after the tragedy by families desperate to find their loved ones. Knowing the faces on those posters represented individual people with unique lives, Rodriguez was determined to help find them.

“We would go through with rakes and then it got to the point where we just wanted to find things and every one of us were down on our hands and knees sifting through this debris trying to find something to get closure to the families,” he said. “We don’t want to leave a piece of jewelry or a tooth or something that could potentially identify somebody.”


An emotional thing

Capt. Jeffrey Silverman was a robbery detective for Anne Arundel County police when he was selected with Rodriguez to assist New York City police.

Two weeks after 9/11, Silverman patrolled a mostly vacant Times Square, memorizing city streets to provide directions around a city that wasn’t his own. It was one of his assignments, along with providing security at the United Nations building near East River and searching through debris on Staten Island.

At Ground Zero, blocks of buildings had pieces lopped off by falling debris. Silverman remembers among the smoldering wreckage and the ash that clung to air, a church remained unscathed.

“It was like a miracle these old churches were still standing just a couple blocks away that didn’t appear to be damaged,” Silverman said.

While digging through debris at the Fresh Kill Landfill in Staten Island, Silverman picked up a family photograph.

“I just remember it being a man and a woman and a child, maybe two children. It was obviously pretty damaged, but you can see what it was. And I just remember thinking that ‘Well, this guy, I assume he was at work, maybe he wasn’t, maybe he is lucky, but you’re not going to see the mom or dad whoever was in that picture, whoever’s office it was,’” Silverman said. “It’s definitely an emotional thing.”


“It gets it to set in a little more the fact that thousands of people died when you’re looking at people’s faces. Imagining in your mind what they might have been doing at the time it happened and that their family’s not going to see them again.”

In the weeks after the attack, Silverman remembers the country’s widespread patriotism on display by the overwhelming presence of American flags and support for police and firefighters. Silverman reflects on 9/11 by watching videos of the Yankees and Mets returning to the field and an emotional crowd after the tragedy, and when Philly’s fans learned during a game that Osama Bin Laden was killed and started chanting “USA.”

“When they started playing baseball games and singing ‘God Bless America’ and how patriotic people were, it was just a different time,” he said.

An outlet

Capt. Herbert Hasenpusch arrived in New York a month after 9/11 with the weight of watching the twin towers collapse and instantly knowing first responders were killed.

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Hasenpusch was compelled to do something, anything, to help New York and the country. He responded to New York on a later shift to help city officers on patrol.

Although he was there to support New Yorkers, the city and its residents wrapped visiting police departments in appreciation for offering aid. High-end hotels in Midtown opened their doors and offered responding police and firefighters and a free place to stay, he recalled.


“Even if you tried you could not pay for a meal. I know a lot of the servers that were working probably had the best tips they ever received,” Hasenpusch said. “As much as we tried to offer … the businesses up there and the restaurants would have none of it.”

Hasenpusch and his squad patrolled the subway, sifted through debris at the landfill and provided security at a movie premiere of “NSync: Bigger Than Live,” a concert film released that year. His ability to give a New York police officer the night or a few hours off patrol was gratifying to Hasenpusch, who felt Anne Arundel County police made meaningful contributions.

Hasenpusch, who commands the department’s technical services division, said the terrorist attack changed the way federal and local agencies shared information with one another. Now, communication is streamlined, and local police and fire departments work together in a “unified command.”

“Those open channels of communications didn’t exist so much prior to 9/11 and I’ve had the fortunate opportunity to see that evolve,” he said. “If there’s any silver lining I think that’s certainly one of them.”