By Keith A. Reynolds
It was a day that left deep scars across not only the landscape of New York, but also within the hearts and minds of the entire nation. As we looked on in horror, the world was changed by radical terrorists flying hijacked airliners. Two things became clear as the smoke and rubble cleared from ground zero, that nothing would ever be the same and that the American people would never forget.
Members of the Lorain County Community College community gathered in the College Center to mark the 14th anniversary of the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The ceremony was hosted by the student senate and featured the presentation of commemorative flags to representatives from the Elyria Police Department, the Elyria Fire Department, and LCCC’s own veterans club as well as an open mic discussion panel on their personal remembrances of that fateful day. The flags were presented by the Midview JROTC and LCCC president Dr. Roy Church, who also gave a short speech.
The Elyria Police Department was represented by Chief Duane Whitely, the Elyria Fire Department by Chief Rich Benton, and the veterans by Esperanza Correa. All that were in attendance were also invited to take part in the discussion, but the main emphasis was on the responses these brave citizens had to an event that took the lives of many of their peers.
Their remarks were illustrative of the bravery that defines those who choose to become first responders. Whitely said that when he was first told about the attacks by his wife he “called the department to see if there was anything they needed me to do, but at that point there wasn’t. But we were all set up to handle things at our respective shifts.”
Likewise Benton described how his day off quickly took a turn on that fateful September morning. “From that point on, it was the longest day of my life. There was a lot of confusion all across the nation. Not knowing what we were going to do, where we were going to have to go.”
Correa, though still a freshman in high school shared one of the most affecting stories of the day. Entering her religion class, she “realized there was only half the students in my classroom. I was completely confused, I didn’t know what was going on. My religion teacher didn’t say one word. He rolled a huge TV in front of us, and I sat directly in front. He turned on the TV and the first thing I saw, the same thing the news kept playing, was the man, whoever it was, was jumping from the building.”
“I was in shock, I didn’t know what was going on. Nobody said anything, so I was just silent. The news kept playing and you saw the second plane hit. That’s when we all knew what was happening,” she explained gravely.
Though she was still young, this event was a turning point and galvanized her desire to join the military. “I knew that that day, I wanted to fight by my family, my friends and my country. That day I asked my parents if I could transfer from private school to public school and I ended up going to an ROTC program. So, that day cemented my faith and I ended up joining the military right after high school.”
The panelists also reflected on the reaction the nation had to such an overwhelming tragedy, and as those who remember that day can attest it was a glorious affirmation of those ideals that have defined America throughout its history.
Dr. Church encapsulated the feelings of appreciation of the campus with these words, “By choosing to commemorate the day of 9/11, you’re playing an important role in memorializing those who lost their lives and honoring the sacrifice of the first responders, and in remembering the spirit of unity that emerged in the aftermath of 9/11. However you choose to commemorate this year’s anniversary, we thank you for joining us as we give back to our communities in any way.”