"A minute saved my life": NYPD officer recounts tragic events of 9/11

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- An NYPD officer who survived the 9-11 attacks, recounts the tragic events and the split second decision that may have saved his life.

September 11, 2001 was a day that changed the world. It was the single deadliest terror attack in American history.

NYPD Detective Steven Stefanakos was right in the middle of it.

"It started off slow and you heard each floor as it pancaked down, slowly into each other, into each other," Stefanakos. "A minute saved my life."

Until there was nothing left of the towers.

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"I knew where our guys were going and that was the first thing that I thought of, oh my god, we have people in those buildings what just happened," Stefanakos said.

Nearly 3,000 people were killed after the tragic attacks. Even now, 19 years later, this veteran officer is still haunted by it.

"Everyday is a reminder of what happened on September 11th, there is not a day that goes by, there's not a sleepless night that goes by that I don't think of them and I don't think of what we lost," Stefanakos said.

Officers Thomas Langone and Paul Talty were with ESU Squad 10, from Queens.

Like Stefanakos, Langone and Talty rushed to Lower Manhattan the day of the attacks, but they weren't as lucky.

Initially, Langone and Talty were to help with possible roof rescues. Stefanakos and his partner were told to head into tower two.

But at the last second, the men casually said "lets swap assignments."

"We'll take that stuff, we'll see you later, be safe, that was the last words Tommy Langone said to me," Stefanakos said.

Langone and Talty were killed. Stefanakos says they were two of the most innovative, compassionate officers he's ever known.

"I have a responsibility to them, to their families and to their memory, when we say we'll never forget, we will never forget," Stefanakos said.

So he pours his energy into mentoring and training younger officers and helping others like himself who struggle with 9-11 related illness.

But most of all, he forces on that silver-lining that came out of such a dark day.

"The feats of bravery and resilience of the families , that's what fills my heart," Stefanakos said.

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