ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) – This weekend, the country will remember lives lost too soon and the first responders who made the ultimate sacrifice. While that day will forever be burned into American history, a man from Rochester will remember his time helping New York City recover.
“It’s something I will never forget. Even 20 years later,” said Major Bob Mueller of the Rochester Salvation Army.
Maj. Mueller was one of 100,000 Salvation Army workers and volunteers who helped with disaster relief on September 11, 2001. More than five million meals were served among those who answered the call for help. During the two weeks that Mueller spent in New York City, he and his teammates set up camp that he called a “drinking hut”. It was a place for construction workers to take a break.
“My main audience was construction workers. We often forget about the people who had to clean up the mess afterwards. And that was kind of my role,” he said.
Müller played a unique role. He was a chaplain, prayed and provided spiritual and emotional support to the people who were cleaning up Ground Zero. Mueller came seven months after the day of the terrorist attacks – and months later he described an incredible scene.
“Every morning I would go behind the cabin, which was stationed right at Ground Zero, and watch the firefighters, watch the cops scraping through the dust and debris that was left,” he said. “Seven months later, still searching for evidence of their fallen comrades.
Mueller remembers one man in particular: a construction worker with whom he quickly developed a relationship. This man usually came by after every shift to say goodbye.
“One Friday he said, ‘Hey, I won’t see you this weekend. I’ve worked every day since the disaster and they give me the weekend off,'” Mueller remembers. “… I showed up on Monday morning and there was a newspaper article nailed to the hut with a picture of this construction worker. He drove his motorcycle, hit a pebble, hit a tree and died.”
He urges everyone to remember all efforts made during – and after – 9/11.
“We mustn’t forget our fallen heroes. We must not forget the families and the victims. We must also never forget the workers, the volunteers who have come and those who have come to help the chaos and aftermath of September 11, 2001. “he said.
During his career with the Salvation Army, Mueller has responded to tornado disasters, floods, fires, and even three sorties to restore Hurricane Katrina. But he says his time at Ground Zero will always stand out. Mueller says it taught him a valuable lesson too.
“Death comes unexpectedly and we have to be prepared,” he said. “And cherish every day we have on earth.”