Greensboro, N.C. - Senior Greensboro Police Officer Matt O'Hal grew up just outside New York City. His dad used to work at the World Trade Center. On September 11, 2001, 13 of his friends died.
Officer O'Hal's mother called him after the first plane hit the tower. He was on the phone with her as the tower collapsed. She was looking out her window. He was watching on TV hundreds of miles away in Greensboro.
"When my mom called that day, that was the first thing she said. She said, 'I can see the towers...the towers....then, she started saying...Oh my God, the first tower is going down! Holy God! What is going on?"
Officer Matt O'Hal felt helpless 600 miles away in Greensboro. At the time, he had no idea so many of his friends had died.
"It was almost like a ball peen hammer hitting the back of your head. It was just a guttural punch in your stomach," he said.
His brother, Gary, is a New York City Firefighter. Gary survived. However, when Officer O'Hal visited New York two weeks after the attacks, he stopped in a church to pray.
"When I looked up, one of the photos that was right in front of me was one of my very best friends growing up...Michael Horn. He lived right behind me. We grew up together. We rode bikes together. We played football together...It rocked my world. We had no idea he was gone."
The terrorist attacks are now in the history books, but Officer O'Hal says they taught him a lesson he will never forget.
"We always need to be vigilant. We always need to be prepared. A lot of people in this world take things for granted. There is nothing guaranteed in this life," he said.
Officer O'Hal has been a Greensboro Police Officer for seventeen years.