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  • Manny Crisostomo / mcrisostomo@sacbee.com

    John Saltnes, at right in red helmet, attends water rescue training recently at the American River. Saltnes was in Manhattan on a business trip on 9/11. Struck by an initial feeling of helplessness, he resolved to take constructive action. Among the changes he made was joining a community emergency response team.

  • Manny Crisostomo / mcrisostomo@sacbee.com

    THE VOLUNTEER: John Saltnes, 56 Sacramento

Reflections of 9/11: The volunteer

Published: Sunday, Sep. 11, 2011 - 12:00 am | Page 4X

John Saltnes, 56, Sacramento

"I'm hard-pressed to find ways that 9/11 has not affected me," said Saltnes, who was in Manhattan on a business trip when the hijacked airliners hit the twin towers.

Saltnes, at the time a website builder, was having breakfast at the tony Hudson Hotel when "I noticed a large airliner flying too close to the ground for comfort.

"Then all hell broke loose," he recalled. "As far as I knew, the world was coming to an end."

Security officers "locked us in the hotel," and he spent the next few days with fellow travelers and native New Yorkers, absorbing the tragedy, sharing hugs and drinks.

"There was no one on the streets of Manhattan. No traffic on Broadway. It was just empty," he said.

Saltnes sensed that the world had changed, but felt helpless to do anything about it. "It was not a good feeling."

On his plane trip home to California a week later, Saltnes started thinking about how he might channel his frustrations about the attacks into something constructive.

Among other changes in his life, he joined a community emergency response team in Los Angeles, where he lived at the time, and got trained to help victims of floods, fires, terrorist attacks and other disasters. Now he is a member of that group in the Sacramento area, where he sells radio advertising for a living.

The attacks on America taught him to treasure friends and family, and be prepared for anything, said Saltnes.

"I now know that an act of terrorism or disaster can happen to any of us," he said. "At least now, I will have the skills to help others the next time it does."

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Cynthia Hubert



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