In my 44 1/2 years of service (Navy, Fire, & Criminal Justice), this is probably the 2nd worst thing I've experienced.
I can say that what you and I saw on television can't even give you the perspective of the sights, smells and devastation that was present on scene. Overwhelming and horrendous are two words that come to mind but honestly, I don't even think they can describe the situation accurately.
In JFK's "Moon speech", he stated, in part "We choose to do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard". With that being said, it was an honor to work hand in hand, shoulder to shoulder, with men and women from all over America. There were search and rescue teams from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Missouri, Ohio, Virginia and too many others to remember and mention. The Virginia Task Force covered 16 jurisdictions from Virginia Beach to Richmond. I had an opportunity to speak to them during a rest break. There were even a group from the Los Angeles Fire Department. The Army from Israel were phenomenal. Unfortunately, they deal with building collapses, routinely. Because of their experience and computer software, they could direct us to where to look or not look for victims. There were police and fire fighters from many jurisdictions from Florida. Miami-Dade Police and Fire Rescue worked around the clock with us and made sure we got whatever it was we needed.
Logistics. Wow! The Police Benevolent Association and the International Association of Fire Fighters had food, water, energy drinks and Gatorade and provided it to us 24 hours a day. Someone had organized food trucks to be in the break areas from about 6:00 AM - Midnight. WaWa, Firehouse Subs, Chic-Filet and many other businesses donate food that was provided to us free of charge. Starbucks had a tent that they shared with the Cafe Bustelo to make sure we had hot coffee around the clock. Honestly, there is no way possible I could ever remember who all was there and who made sure we were taken care of. There were a few large tents where we could sit with other responders, share a meal, and "lean on each other" as needed.
The "Wall of Hope" would bring you to your knees. As you stood there among family and friends of those lost, you couldn't help but feel their pain. There are a few pictures online showing hugs being shared between these folks and responders but there were also situations where we were in an area where we dealt with the citizens of neighboring buildings or vendors who would just give you a nod and mouth the words "thank-you".
This experience will stay with us forever. But this is why we train together and do what we do. I couldn't ask for a more rewarding career.