PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Jason Read vividly recalls the morning of September 11th, 2001.

Recently hired as the new women’s crew coach at his alma mater, Temple University, Read’s incredible life résumé includes an Olympic gold medal and years spent helping others as an EMS/Rescue Chief of Operations in his home county of Hunterdon, in New Jersey.

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He was a first responder on September 11th.

“As soon as I saw that the South Tower had also been hit, I knew that our county and our state would be fully mobilized to support the FDNY and the NYPD,” he said recently, during a visit to KYW Newsradio’s studios.

Hear Matt Leon’s full interview with Jason Read in this CBS Philly podcast…

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Read says he helped set up a treatment area near Ground Zero and looked for survivors in the rubble.  And he says he will never forget what he saw.

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“The images that we see don’t give the situation that really was,” he says.  “We’re talking about 50 acres — enormous buildings.  Hundreds and hundreds of stories, pancaked.  Collapsed.  Within seconds.”

He spent much of that first week after the attack at Ground Zero, and he remembers leaving that Friday night.

“I went into Jersey City and there was a candlelight vigil, and they were singing ‘God Bless America,’ and I was just crippled with emotion,” he recalls.  “It was like the first time I cried, to think that so many families were suffering, that 3,000 people were murdered in about 90 minutes — civilians during peacetime.”

Being so close to a tragedy like that, Read says, helped crystallize the focus for the next stage of his life:

“I knew, when I got back, my mission was to train as hard as I could to win a gold medal.  And also to become much better read on issues of public policy, modern history — post World War I — and national security.  So that maybe I could help prevent an event like 9/11.”

And he has proven successful on both fronts.  Read helped the US team win an Olympic gold medal in rowing — their first in 40 years — at the 2004 games in Athens, and he is now finishing up his master’s degree in Homeland Security at St. Joseph’s University.

Reported by Matt Leon, KYW Newsradio 1060

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