DeGrego talks to students about September 11 attacks

On September 11, Mike DeGrego, Milford Board of Education member and former high school teacher, shared his experiences at the World Trade Center with assemblies at Jonathan Law High School.

On the morning of the disaster, DeGrego, who was a forensic detective at the time, was working at his lab in Mount Vernon, N.Y., looking for fingerprints in a murder case, when word came that first one plane and then another had stuck the World Trade Center.

Several days later, DeGrego volunteered to help at the site of the tragedy.

Parking 16 blocks away from the site, he remembered his training as an Air Force Master Sergeant and immediately put on a respirator. It took nearly four hours to clear security. Making his way through three-foot trenches of cement and other debris, he joined hundreds of other volunteers in a bucket brigade clearing debris and searching for survivors.

As he left at 3 a.m. he said he had tears in his eyes as an official told him to keep the hard hat he was wearing. He would return to work more than a dozen times over the next few weeks.

DeGrego encouraged the students to visit the World Trade Center site and explained how actually being there is a much richer experience than reading about it in history books. He talked about his own experiences as a 9-year-old, when America remembered the 20th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor and his later visit to the site and how rich an experience that visit was. He remembers that his teacher encouraged him to ask his parent where they were when the attack occurred.

“It would be great if Milford students asked their parents where they were when the attack occurred and how it had affected them,” DeGrego said. “It would help understand this sad event.”