Salvation Army captain helps out at the Red Zone - the heart of Ground Zero

Death, destruction, exhaustion, fear, frustration and hope.

Acrid air and black rubble all around.

Memorial photos posted on walls.

Flowers and teddy bears left as reminders of those whose remains may never be found.

These are just some of things Salvation Army Capt.

Will Cobb found in the two weeks last month that he was stationed in The Red Zone, the heart of the recovery mission of what was once the World Trade Center in New York City.

When Cobb, the Kingman Outpost captain, received a call from the Salvation Army last month to pack his bags to leave for Ground Zero in New York City, he didn't know what to expect.

But at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, as he was boarding a plane for New York on Oct.

2, he did realize one thing – the life he and his fellow Americans had once known was over.

"I noticed the presence of the National Guard everywhere at the airport," Cobb said.

"It actually made me feel more comfortable.

I felt safer because of it."

But those feelings were replaced with more powerful emotions when Cobb arrived at the scene in New York City where he was given the job of logistic officer in charge of coordinating supplies needed for the Ground Zero area, including supplying 10,000 meals a day to workers.

"To stand right next to what used to be the World Trade Center is beyond words for me," he said.

"It covers 20 acres.

There is a pile of rubble two to three stories high when I was there.

It was still burning.

It is still burning even today."

He spent three days at Ground Zero, but served the remainder of his tour of duty at one of five Salvation Army locations at The Red Zone, the site where much as the recovery work is taking place.

The actual area where the recovery work was done was known to workers as The Pit, Cobb said.

"A crime scene was committed, so everything is considered evidence, including photos.

Security for the Red Zone was incredibly high.

You had to have a picture ID and authorization from the city to enter the area," Cobb said.

"There are four checkpoints to get through."

The odor was also something new to Cobb – something he hopes he never smells again.

"It is the alkaline smell of completely pulverized concrete combined with that burned-out smell," he said.

"The down wind was a problem to breathe.

Workers were told to wear respirators."

Another contaminant on the scene is asbestos, used in the construction of buildings before 1970.

The site has been classified a hazardous area, and must constantly be sprayed with water so particles won't become airborne.

A constant steam of trucks goes in and out of the site loaded with the debris bound for the Staten Island landfill, he said.

Cobb, who supervised a large warehouse, began his day at 7 a.m., before the first shift of workers started the daily grind of shifting through the endless mounds of debris.

He ended his day around 8 p.m.

Working at an "exhausting pace," he dispensed respirators, cough drops, throat spray, gloves, sweatshirts, boots and other items throughout the day, as well as coordinating the 10,000 catered meals eaten at the portable Salvation Army canteen set up close the Red Zone.

Small and congested, the area, which is still considered a crime scene, is a pile of rubble swarming with workers shifting through the debris in the hopes of recovering the remains of one of the thousands of people who perished in the disaster.

"I was there one day when they found two bodies.

When that happens everything stops.

Everything comes to a screeching halt - it is as emotional event," Cobb said with a catch in his voice.

He said the utter destruction of what happened is something that is very difficult for many people to comprehend.

"Besides the loss of so many lives is the total destruction of a massive building, a symbol of America's greatness," he said.

"There was also a subway station with a complete shopping mall and food mall under the World Trade Center."

Cobb explained that from a counseling viewpoint it was the worse scenario possible: the sudden death of young people dying before their time, and for a high percentage of the victims there are no bodies.

"Part of closure is to see the body, to be able to say goodbye," he said.

But in addition to the despair and anguish at Ground Zero, Cobb also saw hope, and the chance for a new, stronger America.

"Ground Zero is like a war zone, but when I saw the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building it made me realize the greatness of New York, and the country.

"I like New York, I came to enjoy the hustle and bustle.

… It is a melting pot of people from everywhere," Cobb said.

"I was glad to go and help out, but I am glad to be home."