MIDDLEBURG, Fla. -- Sunday night a crowd gathered at First Baptist Church of Middleburg, just like people packed churches the night of 9/11 ten years ago.
However, this evening, the crowd was there to remember and to hear Joe Smaha's story.
Smaha described what he found at Ground Zero ten years ago. He said, "When we got there it was like looking at the scene of a war."
Smaha is a firefighter from New Jersey, and he was asked to speak at the Middleburg church. He was one of the first responders who reported to Ground Zero after the Twin Towers collapsed. "When we were headed there, we could see the smoke," Smaha remembered.
And that thick smoke still lingers in his memory. "They gave us a bunch of paper masks when we first got there. After 10 to 15 minutes they got clogged up, so we needed to put on another [mask]. After a while, they ran out of masks and we stopped wearing them," Smaha said.
Amidst the dust and destruction, Smaha said it was "amazingly quiet. Except for the sounds of devices -- the air packs of the firefighters who were no longer moving." Smaha recalled.
Smaha lost friends that day. He said they all expected more people to survive the attack.
Smaha is a firefighter as well as a pastor, and he encourages people to rely on their faith - especially when the pain still hurts a decade later.
"I told my wife I was surprised how emotional I was thinking about the day," Smaha said Sunday. "It's ten years later, and it isn't a lot easier... except the message I gave this morning is about hope. If America needs more of something, it's more of God. We need Jesus."
First Coast News