On September 11, 2001, two planes flew into the Twin Towers, 1 and 2 World Trade Center, in Lower Manhattan. Across the street, located at 7 World Trade Center, was the New York Field Office of the United States Secret Service. The office was packed with Special Agents and Uniformed Division officers preparing for the United Nations General Assembly. In the immediate aftermath of the attacks, they were among the first to respond and provide assistance at Ground Zero.
When American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the North Tower at 8:46AM, first responders rushed into the building to rescue survivors. Among them was Marine and Secret Service Special Agent Tommy Armas. Wearing gym shorts and a t-shirt, he braved the dust and debris multiple times, climbing 40 stories to carry people out to ambulances on the street. When the South Tower collapsed, Armas became trapped in the lobby of the North Tower. Incredibly, he made it out.
"There was a fire truck that was unmanned," recalled retired Special Agent Tom Grupski, Deputy Special Agent in Charge or the New York Field Office on 9/11, "and four agents were actually fighting fires." Despite the general evacuation of the field office, the Secret Service duty desk remained manned. It wasn't until a direct order was given that the agents abandoned their posts at 7 World Trade. Bringing some order to the chaos, agents helped coordinate the move of people north to Chelsea Piers. There, they commandeered boats to evacuate victims from Lower Manhattan and across the Hudson.
In the aftermath of 9/11, the Secret Service faced the daunting task of providing protection to President George Bush during his visit to Ground Zero. On 9/14, the Secret Service organized the president's armored motorcade into Lower Manhattan. With smoke, debris, and flames still around, the area was a security nightmare that agents worked through to secure Bush's visit.
Additionally, agents joined in the search for remains, including the search for one of their own. "You just wanted to have closure for Craig Miller's family and you wanted to have closure for all the thousands of other people that were there," recalled Physical Security Specialist Don McGee. "We wanted to do for him what we would want someone to do for us." Master Special Officer Craig Miller was one of the 72 law enforcement officers killed on 9/11.