It’s been two decades since the day that changed America forever.

On Sept. 11, 2001, nearly 3,000 people died after Islamic extremists tied to Al Qaeda hijacked four jetliners and used them as missiles.

NBC 4’s Colleen Marshall and photographer Charles Busby went to New York City 20 years ago to cover the attack on the World Trade Center and the aftermath.

To mark the 20th anniversary, they went back to New York and all this week will share the stories of 9/11 – 20 years later.

COLUMBUS (WCMH) — On September 11, 2001, 343 firefighters died, and all over New York City, you will see remembrances of their sacrifice.

However, there is no place quite like Ladder Company 3. They were in the middle of a shift change when the first plane hit the tower, so they piled into their single truck, sitting on each others’ laps, and rushed to the tower.

Twenty-four men went on that run. Half of them did not come back.

The chaos of the scene was interrupted by a brief spark of hope that day: Five people were found alive in an SUV buried by the rubble.

For Ladder Company 3, hope died quickly when Captain Paddy Brown led half his team into the North Tower of the World Trade Center.

“Just a man amongst men, a legend on this job,” said one current Ladder Company 3 firefighter of Brown. “And he took the telephone and he called the dispatcher and he told them that there were still people trapped above – and that was the last thing that Paddy said: ‘This is three truck, and we are still heading up.'”

Heading up as the tower came down.

Twenty years later, the faces of the 12 men who died that day are the first things people see when they go to Ladder 3.

And new recruits soon learn their faces, names, and stories.

“There’s a lot of things to know in the firehouse is you got to know your tools, you got to know where to be, you have to know your job,” the firefighter said. “But one of the main important things that we have here is to remember those names up there of the 12 guys that, you know, we lost.”

When a family member of one of the fallen firefighters visits, Ladder 3 is ready.

“You have to memorize and make sure you know those names backward and forwards,” the firefighter said.

The firehouse remains a storied reminder of service and sacrifice. It was founded more than a century ago, ironically, on Sept. 11, 1865.

The ladder truck that carried Paddy Brown and his men to the World Trade Center now holds a place of honor inside the National 9/11 Museum as a damaged, crumpled reminder that there are men and women willing to run toward – and head up – into danger.

“Dispatch. Captain Brown, Ladder 3. I’m at the World Trade Center. I’m on the 35th floor, we’re trying to get up…”