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'We watched the first plane hit the World Trade Center'

Air Force veteran Chris Wolff accelerated his enlistment into the military after watching the 9/11 terror attacks unfold in front of him in New York City.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — At 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001, hijackers crashed American Airlines Flight 11 into the 93rd floor of the North Tower of the World Trade Center. The world changed forever that day.

As we pause to remember the 22nd anniversary of the terrorist attacks on September 11th, we look back at how the attacks from that day shaped the life of a veteran who now lives in Jacksonville, as well as the lives of countless other people he's impacted in the years that followed.

Chris Wolff's story begins with a trip to visit family in New York City on September 10th, 2001.

"I distinctly remember my grandfather pointing over to 2 buildings," said Wolff, "my grandpa said 'tomorrow morning we're going to be at the top of the towers for Windows of the World to enjoy breakfast with family.'"

Wolff woke up late on Tuesday, September 11th...it may have saved his life.

"We were on our way to the subway and made it down to the harbor and within minutes of being at the harbor we watched the first plane hit the World Trade Center," said Wolff.

At 9:03am United Airlines flight 175 was crashed into the 77th floor of the South Tower.

"Now we've been attacked, what do we do," recalled Wolff, "you're finding out the buildings are falling, you watch them from this beautiful skyline to just dust that covered Manhattan."

Chris Wolff was 18 years old when he witnessed the 9/11 terrorist attacks. He had already joined the military on a delayed enlistment, but after witnessing the attack, Wolff immediately called his Air Force recruiter.

"I wanted to prove what red, white and blue was to the person who did this," said Wolff.

He served in the Air Force for 11 years and had multiple overseas tours of duty.

"Even though I know my job may have been small in the military, each person has a mission that equals the bigger goal, ultimately you stand up for this country to fight for freedom and I wanted to continue the freedom that we had," said Wolff.

But Wolff was knocked down. He became paralyzed after an extremely rare reaction to a military issued nasal spray flu shot. For more than 2 years, he was classified as a quadriplegic, but through sheer determination and medical treatments he eventually regained use of his arms.

Now, his home in Jacksonville has an American flag board filled with challenge coins. The coin that sits in the upper left of the American flag was given to him by former President George W. Bush during a meeting with injured veterans.

"He stood up and grabbed me, put my head on his chest and apologized for what the country had done to me," said Wolff, "to ultimately be told that by your Commander-in-Chief was a feeling I never thought I could feel because I thought I was in this alone, come to find out we're all together."

Following his paralysis Wolff made it his mission to help others.

"Even though I don't wear the uniform daily I still stand up and fight for veterans who are still continuing to fight now and the ones who get out because it's in my blood," said Wolff, "There's nothing I can do to change that, I will do whatever it takes to protect freedom, if that calling came back I would go back in an instant."

He's now involved with Wounded Warrior Project and helps other veterans through adaptive sports programs.

"I'll never forget what changed my life that day and the potential for all these programs to change another veteran's life is huge," said Wolff, "there are programs out there to better themselves or better somebody else they know."

"I want my kids to understand that what you do has an impact, it may not be directly right in front of you, but what you do has a bigger impact on somebody else's life."

Chris Wolff will never forget September 11th, and much like the new tower at the World Trade Center, though he is in a wheelchair, Chris Wolff continues to rise tall.

To learn more about the programs at Wounded Warrior Project that helped Chris, visit their website.

RELATED: From paralyzed to multi-sport athlete, Jacksonville veteran is defying all odds

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