Chesterfield couple relives volunteering at ground zero 20 years later

Remembering 9/11

CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — On the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, a Chesterfield County couple is sharing their story about the horrific day and aftermath that followed.

Two decades have passed since the deadly attacks that forever changed America, but for Bill and Reta Good it doesn’t feel that long.

“A lot of it feels just like yesterday,” Reta told 8News. “It was only when that second plane hit that I realized we were being attacked.”

Bill and Reta sit on their couch remembering a day they’ll never forget. The two shared that they were in Canada when two planes slammed into the World Trade Center. Bill said they were in a store when the first plane hit and thought it was a horrible accident until the second plane hit. That’s when folks started inching closer to the television asking the clerk to turn up the volume.

The couple is now in their 80’s, but 20 years ago they both were on the frontlines of tragedy, volunteering with the Salvation Army at ground zero, two months after the attack.

In November, close to Thanksgiving, the couple traveled to New York and stayed for two weeks trying to help put the crumbled pieces back together. Reta tried to explain to 8News what it was like witnessing the devastation firsthand.

“I felt anger,” Reta said. “I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. It was quite devastating. Actually, it was still smoldering–even then.”

For 14 long days, the Goods inhaled smoke still filling the air, witnessed countless bodies being carried out and watched as thousands of first responders dug through heavy steel and concrete. New York City, the city of dreams and one that never sleeps, resembled a war zone.

“Reality hit,” Reta said. “It was real.”

While at ground zero, Bill and Reta made sure first responders were fed and hydrated. The two served up food and drinks in large dining tents but also lent their ears to those witnessing trauma each and every day. Reta and Bill say they met first responders from all over the country, who would one-by-one come to the tents to grab a plate of food and a drink venting about the tragedy.

Strong connections were built in the dining tents as each person tried to cope with the unimaginable. Bill told 8News there was one young paramedic he would chat with who wore a hazmat suit and he would see her picking up body parts and there was also Frank.

Bill said he would call Frank by the nickname of “Jamaica” because that’s where he was from. Going on to say, Frank was simply walking past the towers during the attack and couldn’t sleep for nights because of the trauma. He says Frank would walk to ground zero each day and help first responders.

“He was carrying two bodies out and he (Frank) said one of them, the two kids were fused together,” Bill recalled. “What a terrible thing for that guy to live with.”

The Good’s keep Frank and several others close to their heart in a homemade scrapbook. The book is filled with memories including newspaper clippings, heart wrenching photographs, their volunteer credentials, and thank you notes — some from children.

Also in the collection of memories are several pins the two collected from other volunteers and first responders. Bill said ‘swapping pins’ became a lighthearted way to connect and get to know folks on the ground.

“Policemen would walk across the street and thank us for being there,” Bill said. “Fireman and just the ordinary people on the street too.”

Despite the tragedy came unity. Every 9/11 the Good’s hang an American flag on their front porch to honor those who’ve lost their lives, were hurt or volunteered, and as a gesture of patriotism.

The Good’s no longer volunteer with the Salvation Army, but they’ve also been a part of disaster relief efforts in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina and Oklahoma for tornadoes. They both encourage people to volunteer and say they wouldn’t trade their experiences for anything.

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