Looking Back: Salvation Army Major reflects on 9/11 deployment

(ABC 6 News) – "I remember being at home getting ready to go to work. My wife came up to me and said ‘hey it sounds like somebody’s bombing a building in New York City," Salvation Army Major Robert Mueller said.

Then Lieutenant Bob Mueller knew the world had just changed and knew he had to offer his help.

"I turned on the television. I just remember being overwhelmed by what I saw," he said.

In 2001 Mueller lived in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul with his wife. She is also a Salvation Army major. They have three kids.

"My children were still young," Mueller said of that time.

He had to leave them behind seven months later to assist recovery efforts in lower Manhattan. 2,977 people killed in the terror attack on the twin towers – causing thousands of people to donate time and money immediately after the terrorist attack.

But recovery is a long process.

"I know how disaster work works. When there was a gap, I’d go," Mueller said.

So Mueller went in April 2002 to help construction workers in it for the long haul.

One of these construction workers left an imprint on Mueller’s heart and mind.

"He was a big, burly, gregarious guy that would always stop in every morning on his big yellow earth mover and come in and load up on beverages and snacks," he said of the worker.

This worker was on site, digging through rubble, for seven months without a single day off.

"He came in on a Friday morning and said ‘Bob I’m not gonna see you this weekend. I got the weekend off,’" Mueller said.

On Monday morning Mueller came across a newspaper article. The worker was killed after loosing control of his motorcycle.

"That really hit hard, you know? Death comes unexpectedly. For thousands of people it was caused by two planes crashing into two buildings. For another guy it was just from a pile of pebbles in the road," he said.

Now Major Bob asks that we never forget the workers that clean up the destruction.

"Some of the things I walked away from in that experience – realizing how short life is. How precious it is," he said.

He asks that we never forget to appreciate those special interactions.

"You never know when it’s going to come. So you have to make the best of every moment that you’re given."