SMITH COUNTY, Texas (KETK)- Shock, confusion and fear are a few of the emotions that were racing through every American on Sept. 11, 2001.

Smith County Sheriff Larry Smith remembers the day all too well.

“The helplessness of we knew something, somebody had done something to our country, and we couldn’t get any immediate gratification from retaliating on it. That’s what was going through my mind,” said Smith.

The day started off as normal for Smith, who was doing construction on his house.

Then, he heard what happened.

“My pager went off that morning and I went in to return the phone call. They told me about the Twin Towers and the Pentagon,” he said.

Smith dropped everything he was doing and rushed to help. He headed for the Pentagon.

Since all flights were grounded, Smith had thousands of miles to mentally prepare for the road ahead.

“We would spread the debris out and we were collecting using cadaver dogs human parts, plane parts and top secret documents of the Pentagon,” said Smith.

He spent two weeks in Virginia, but one specific memory sticks with him the most.

“We were instructed to recover anything, a silver dollar size or larger of human remains and even though that’s all we were recovering. After we’d recovered a little bit, we would stop and pray over the victims,” said Smith.

He mentioned they were paying their respects to the innocent lives lost.

Now, 20 years later, Smith still deals with the emotional pain.

“Today, different smells and different sounds and things will key, especially around this time of year…I will never forget the day or the time I spent up there,” he added.

Smith said he’s seen a lot in his law enforcement career, but those weeks at the Pentagon were some of the most traumatic for him.