Amherst County first responder recalls serving after Sept. 11 attacks

‘My phone rang, and it was time to go to work.’

Nearly 20 years ago on Sept. 11, the nation was left stunned by acts of terror.

AMHERST COUNTY, Va. – Thumbing through photos from that time, Sam Bryant recalled his emotion on Sept. 11, 2001.

“Disbelief but also being angry, being mad. A lot of different emotions,” said Bryant.

He was 34 years old and working his first shift as a flight paramedic with Virginia State Police. But still serving as a flight medic with the Army National Guard, Bryant got the call.

“My phone rang, and it was time to go to work, time to get up there to Fort Belvoir.”

He flew into Washington D.C. on a Blackhawk helicopter and arrived at the Pentagon that night. Bryant said he worked nightshifts, supporting the recovery effort in a different way.

“We thought we were going to take care of people, and we had to take care of them not in a traditional way as a flight medic. Most of the patients were already gone. So, there was some mental health [issues] going on, workers that were in disbelief.”

In the following weeks, Bryant helped process and transport victims’ remains.

“I didn’t know when I was coming home or what was going to go on.”

He served three weeks at the Pentagon, then later overseas with the FBI.

Bryant continues to serve today as director of public safety for Amherst County. He’s passing on his Sept. 11 experience to the next generation of first responders.

“It taught me how to work together no matter what the circumstance was, to be able to motivate people and know how to speak with them.”

It also taught him to never forget.

“I am grateful that I was able to be a part of it,” said Bryant.

About the Author:

Tim Harfmann joined the 10 News team in September 2020 and works at the station's Lynchburg bureau.