We were in the park playing Frisbee when it happened. I had just caught it and was running back to drop it at my Master’s feet. But he ignored it, I picked it up again dropped it on his feet. He didn’t even looked down all he did was stare off in the distance with a blank look on his face. The smell of fear wafted through the air and it was all I could smell, I laid at my Master’s feet and looked across the river at the two towers as smoke trailed into the air from both of them.
His trace was broken by the buzzing thing he talks to so often and not by anything I had done. He talked in to it and listened, for a long time, to the person on the other end. Afterwards he pressed the button, flipped it shut and stuffed it in to his pocket. "Come on Boy, we've got work to do!" He reached down and scratched that hard to reach spot between my ears and then together we jogged back to the parking lot and his waiting van.
I jumped in through the open door excited about work it meant helping people, treats and being with other dogs. My owner looked back at the towers as one crumbled right before his eyes and disappeared in to the ground. A cloud of dust rose up into the air obscuring the city under it. My bark was enough this time to grab his attention and he slammed shut my door. As he climbed behind the wheel all I could smell was the salty liquid of his tears.
We raced home to grab what we needed before reporting in. I could smell the dog treats through the nylon pouch. As we pulled out of the driveway, the voice of the car announced that the second tower had collapsed. Master blinked away more tears and drove off. I wanted to lay down in his lap and comfort him but he pushed me away each time Since it wasn't any option I stuck my head out of the window to try enjoy the wind in my face, Outside the air was thick with dust and smells that I didn't like. It was bad enough that I pulled my head back in and just lay in my seat.
The staging area was an office building about a mile away. They had brought everyone here that they could survivors, injured firemen and police, and volunteers. A man in a black uniform pointed off to the left and Master followed his commands. Five dogs and their Masters where already milling about each of them wore the same look of fear and concern my Master had worn since we left the park. All of the dogs were frustrated that we couldn’t introduce ourselves but everything was a swirl of scents that was overlaid with fear, smoke and death. I don’t know how long we waited in that room, but it was long enough that I wanted to find a fire hydrant. As I pulled on my lead, a man walked in to the room followed by another man in a heavy coat that smelled of smoke. The first man talked while the smokey one just stood in the back. Then after a few minutes the first man gestured to the other one and walked out.
All of the Master’s were handed hardhats and everyone fell in behind the smokey jacketed man. Together we walked towards what they where all calling Ground zero. I knew what was expected of me but I wasn’t sure that I’d be able too, there where just too many smells in the air. The site was chaos each team was assigned to work with a man in a smokey coat. Ours was friendly and tried to introduce himself but all I could smell was the smoke off his hand so I just looked up and wagged my tail, they seem to like that.
As soon as we were paired up it was off to work. I sniffed out the area in search of anyone's scent. Master was commanded by the smokey man where to look and I was proud of the way he followed them. He in turn led me to areas they thought most likely to have someone. I don’t know how they decided what was a most likely spot everything looked and smelt the same to me. The worst part was how it felt, my paws burned as I was led over the slabs of concrete and steel. What wasn’t hot and burning was sharp and cut at my pads. In the end I was one of the lucky ones. The first to find someone and I found them alive. It was a woman and a baby, the two of them had hid in the doorway of fire door. They still send me treats a couple of times a year and Master tells me that she named her new puppy Quinn after me.
It’s been a lot of years since that day. My Master still looks sad sometimes as he looks across the river while we play in the park. Today for the first time we went back, I walk proudly at his side as we pass through a barricade into a private ceremony. Together we stood at the back of the crowd with other dogs and their Master’s that we had met on that day We all mingled and smell one another trying to remember each. It was hard because the air is different this time around it isn’t filled with sadness and death but with hope.