9/11 We Will Never Forget

9/11 will always be a somber day for our country.

It’s hard to imagine that 18 years have passed since that fateful day when terrorists killed  nearly 3,000 Americans with strikes on the Twin Towers, The Pentagon and United Flight 93 in Shanksville, PA.
I think all Americans who were alive that day have personal memories of 9/11.

As a native New Yorker it stung badly to see the Twin Towers fall. We had gone there on a school field trip, visited the Windows on the World restaurant and I had known some people who worked in the iconic buildings.

I would later learn that a childhood friend, Mike Boyle, an off duty New York City firefighter would perish in the towers. He sped to the scene when he saw what was happening. I would later find his name at the memorial and I think of him often as I am sure others do. He was a special guy.

We lost lots of special people that horrible day.

I watched the Towers get hit while in the newsroom at the old Boca News. I had sold my publication to the News two years before and they kept me on board.
September 11 fell on a Tuesday. I was on the City Commission for a little over a year at the time. At first, we did not grasp the enormity of the day and I remember we held a meeting or a workshop—as if life could go on as normal. We had no conception of how much life would change.

As the days and weeks unfolded so much had changed.
We discovered that many of the terrorist plotters had lived in our community. At the Hamlet and Laver’s…working out at World Gym, going to Huber Drugs, conducting research at the old city library.
I had friends who had encounters with what they now realized were strange men, murderers. We had police officers who stopped them for traffic violations and one who responded to calls of a dog bite where they saw the men who were plotting. Nobody knew  that  they brushed up against pure evil. These were the days before national databases so there was no way to cross check or to know.

When it was revealed that the plotters lived In Delray the media swarmed. Our mayor Dave Schmidt appeared on national morning shows. The rest of us were contacted by national media as well.
The theory was that South Florida and Delray were chosen because the terrorists felt they could blend in here with our diversity.

At the office, we watched with fear when one of our neighboring buildings which housed AMI, the parent company of the National Enquirer was sealed off when anthrax was sent through the mail killing a photographer.
Suddenly, our mail room became a source of concern. It was surreal.

It was as if the world was tilted off its axis.

When catastrophe strikes, you strive for normalcy but it’s elusive.

Back in those days, our Fire Chief Kerry Koen had started a wonderful tradition at Halloween.
Commissioners were assigned to fire trucks and we drove through neighborhoods giving treats to children who swarmed the big red trucks with excitement and joy. It was tremendous fun and a wildly popular activity.
On the Halloween after 9/11, we were on trucks that began to respond to calls from parents who feared that their children had brought anthrax back in their candy carriers.
The powder that they suspected turned out to be sugar. And in one case, a frightened man thought he was a victim when he found what turned out to be sand in his apartment.
Things had changed.

We sent firefighters to Ground Zero and I wonder and worry about their health as a result. Experts estimate that more people will end up dying from exposure to toxins after the attack than died that day.
I met someone recently vacationing in Delray who was battling cancer caused by the exposure. That’s why it was so important for Congress to fully fund health benefits for victims.

If you visit our fire headquarters on West Atlantic Avenue you will see a piece of artwork dedicated to the memory of the 343 firefighters who perished that day.
It’s worth a visit.

When I remember those days, I recall how we gathered to meet and pray at Old School Square and the Community Center and how on subsequent anniversaries we lit candles and remembered those lost that day on the front lawn of Old School Square.

I think of how we as a community and we as a nation were united by tragedy. How we grew closer, at least for awhile.
And I wonder if we will ever feel that way again and why it takes a tragedy of indescribable horror to bring us together.
And I remember my childhood friend Mike Boyle who was the fastest kid in our class and how he raced up the stairs into the fire when everyone else was fleeing.

 

Comments

  1. Beautifully written, Jeff.

  2. Ellie Hayman says:

    At about 9 a.m on 911 We were on the Tarmack of JFK waiting to fly to Fort Lauderdale to attend the closing of my new house in Delray. Our pilot announced that a plane hit the World Trade Building.. A few minutes later.
    we left on Jet Blue. Each seat back on the plane had a TV.. We all saw the 2nd plane hit the building. Everyone on the plane gasped! A few minutes later the pilot informed us that we were to land at the nearest airport. We stated 2 days & 1 night @ the Sheraton Hotel@ their expense. Hotel Chartered 2 buses to transport us to Ft Lauderdale. Box suppers were provided. We traveled14 hours to reach our destination. Police officers met our bus as the terminsl was closed

  3. Thanks Jeff –

    – “343” –

  4. Joann Reynolds says:

    I will never forget that day! Many friends and neighbors of mine on Long Island died that day. I remember seeing the footage on the first plane. I watched as the 2nd plane hit the tower. I knew something was terribly wrong. That day was also the beginning of first responders police, fire, constuction and citizens to obtain cancers that are only seen in anyone who was at those towers. Little did I know, my brother would be one of them. Many Americans continue to die daily and the numbers are staggering! Our people, family and friends were murdered on 9/11, I will never forget it!

Speak Your Mind

*

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.