September 11, 2001 changed things for the FBI. While agents continue to focus on counterterrorism, the ranks are also dealing with poignant reminders of the attacks. "Too often, we're notified of FBI employees who are dying of 9/11-related illnesses from the carcinogens at the (Ground Zero) site," said Gary Loeffert, special agent in charge of the FBI's Buffalo Field Office.
Officials say the deaths of 15 members of the FBI are being attributed to 9/11-related illnesses. Loeffert points out how his fellow agents worked alongside the hundreds of police, firefighters and volunteers at Ground Zero.
"This is anecdotal, there are some out there that are saying we'll probably lose more from 9/11-illnesses than folks that actually died on 9/11, which makes it even sadder," Loeffert said.
He recalls his assignment on September 11, 2001 for FBI's Miami Field Office. While making an arrest, he heard the news of a second plane crashing into the World Trade Center.
"Knew right away America was under attack."
He finished with the arrest before going to work for the "next four or five days in a row, 12 hours a day, covering leads."
It turned out one of those leads brought the case close to home. His former apartment manager called him a few days later to tell him "that two of the hijackers had applied to rent an apartment in my old apartment complex."
It was a "surreal" moment, Loeffert recalled.
"The FBI Miami ended up serving a search warrant where they (the hijackers) had previously lived right next to my apartment complex."
What is the presence of terrorism today? Loeffert measures his words.
"This threat, it seems like it's always evolving. But we have dedicated professionals on these terrorism task forces, they're all over it every day and they don't rest," said Loeffert, adding there are task forces located in Buffalo and Rochester.
"They're working hard to keep Western New York safe and there's nothing we won't do to keep accomplishing that goal."