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Local 9/11 first responder still fighting a difficult battle

By Jamie Hicks
Published On: Sep 11 2013 11:08:22 PM CDT
Updated On: Sep 12 2013 09:24:59 AM CDT

The stories of tragedy and heroism of 9/11 live on 12 years later. NewsChannel 12 spoke with a local man who found himself in the middle of the twin towers rubble that day.

NEW BERN, CRAVEN COUNTY -

The stories of tragedy and heroism of 9/11 live on 12 years later. NewsChannel 12 spoke with a local man who found himself in the middle of the twin towers' rubble that day.

New Bern resident Steven Centore said he was living on Long Island, N.Y., when terrorists attacked the World Trade Center.

"Somebody came running into my office saying, 'Hey, you need to come watch this. The first plane had just crashed into the first tower.' And as we were watching, the second hit, and soon as the second hit, my phone started ringing off the wall," Centore said.

Centore quickly became a part of a Ground Zero response team called the Joint Terrorist Task Force. He said he and his crew headed straight for Ground Zero and helped clean up where the twin towers once stood.

"The first impression I got when I got down to Ground Zero was, I didn't want to be there. I was scared to death. It was chaos- nobody really knew what to do but everybody was trying to do something because we knew we still had people trapped in the rubble," he said.

Centore said first responders worked long days and spent nights sleeping on the streets.

"I was there for another four years, seven days a week, working 16 to 18 hours a day. I said I can't do this anymore.  I was dying," Centore told NewsChannel 12.

Centore said years of working at Ground Zero and breathing in hazardous chemicals caused his health to deteriorate.

"I had developed what we call the 'Ground Zero cough,'" he said.

In 2006, Centore was diagnosed with liver disease and said his health quickly took a turn for the worse. 

"I remember the doctor came in one morning and said,  'I have good news and bad news.' He said, 'your kidneys have just shut down and you have maybe 24 or 48 hours to live,'" Centore recalled.

Fortunately, Centore was first on the transplant list and by midnight, doctors told him they had found a match.

"I always say that God isn’t ready for me yet. He's taking me a piece at a time, as long as he doesn't take too big of a piece," Centore said.

A month after being released from the hospital, Centore began writing a book titled, "One of Them: A First Responder's Story,” to let others who were at Ground Zero know they are not alone.