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9/11: Honoring their memories 18 years later

by Margaret Stewart - Managing Editor
Tue, Sep 17th 2019 09:00 pm
Members of the ROTC stand at attention for the flag ceremony. Many people this age may not directly remember 9/11.
Members of the ROTC stand at attention for the flag ceremony. Many people this age may not directly remember 9/11.

September 11, 2001 changed the course of American history. 

Towns, villages and cities hold memorials nationwide to reflect on the events and to remember those who died. 

AJ Martinez, a sophomore at The College at Brockport, said that while he does not remember the events of 9/11, it is especially important for him to honor those who lost their lives.

“[My father] was there when it all happened; he was one of the first responders,” Martinez said. “He is NYPD, and he was in the 26th precinct in Harlem.”

Martinez described what his father experienced as one of the first people on the scene.

“He said it was really horrific when he got there,” Martinez said. “All he could see was rubble. He found arms and legs and different body parts but no survivors.” 

Tim Drake, 21, is a Pittsford, NY native who was inspired by the heroic actions of the first responders on the day of the attacks.

“I’ve been an EMT for about a year and a half and I have been a volunteer fireman for about three to four years,” Drake said.  “There are some parts of the job in fire/EMT/police that no one wants to do, but we have to. It’s what we signed up for.” 

Drake joined his local fire and EMT departments before enlisting in the United States Army in December 2018.

The Village of Brockport hosted a day long vigil at the Capen Hose Fire Hall at the five-way intersection. The vigil began at 8:30 a.m. where the flag was raised and lowered to half-mast followed by Striking the Four Fives. 

Striking the Four Fives is in reference to the code used in firehouses and by firefighters. Historically, the toll of the bells signifies the death of a firefighter, and in the case of 9/11, it is used to honor those who were lost and never found. Unfortunately, a lot of the younger generations do not understand or are not aware of the importance of the tradition.

“I honestly don’t think the younger generations understand the significance of the day because I feel like the level of respect from the younger generations for anything is severely lacking,” Drake said.

The effects of 9/11 were widespread. If you were not directly impacted, you either know someone who was or someone who narrowly avoided the attacks.

Brockport alumna Kelly Smith lives in Hopewell Junction, NY, and her father worked as a police officer. Her family was lucky they were not directly affected, though they had family friends who were.

“I was 4-years-old,” Smith said. “I vaguely remember 9/11. I remember it more looking back than in the present.”

Smith suggests this could be one of the reasons why Generation Z seems less affected by and more nonchalant toward the terrorist attacks.

“I don’t think there is enough [taught] on 9/11 in some regards,” Smith said. “I think it is very well expressed and known, but if you asked a 14 or 15-year-old about the events they wouldn’t be able to tell you the details past the two towers falling.” 

If Smith, 22, can barely remember the attacks, Gen Z definitely does not, which can cause some disconnect and result in younger generations feeling more removed from an event that changed America.

“9/11 has changed the world in many ways,” Drake said. “On the humanity side of things, the morning it happened and for weeks and months following the event, people were more united than ever. It didn’t matter who you voted for in the last election or the color of your skin. Americans were Americans.”

Martinez agrees with Drake, mentioning how every year it seems less talked about.

“We say ‘Never Forget,’ but everyone’s forgetting, no one talks about it anymore,” Martinez said. “We should remember it because it was something that brought us together and we were like a unit, we were like a family, that’s what my dad told me.”

Though Smith agrees with Drake and Martinez, she points out not all areas of America experienced a stronger sense of community.

“I think it is important to discuss the aftermath of 9/11 too: how much the country came together but also how much islamophobia flared up,” Smith said.

Though many of the memorials and vigils happened on Wednesday, Sept. 11, there is still an opportunity for students to honor those who were killed 18 years ago, specifically Stephen Siller.

On Sunday, Oct. 6, The Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation is hosting The Tunnel to Towers Run & Walk 5K Series on campus to honor Siller. According to tunneltotowers.org, Siller was a “New York City firefighter (FDNY) who lost his life on September 11, 2001 after strapping on his gear and running through the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel to the Twin Towers.”

For more information, feel free to contact Michelle Myers at serve@brockport.edu.

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Taken by Vincent Croce:
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