MASON — Even though the tragedy occurred before some of them were born, students at Wahama High School were among the thousands of Americans who paused to remember the events of Sept. 11, 2001 yesterday.
Monday marked 16 years since the terror attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington, DC. The school’s Rho Kappa History Honor Society hosted the solemn remembrance, which also recognized local first responders.
Dennis Zimmerman, director of Emergency Services for Mason County, who was at the scene of the World Trade Center following the attack, was guest speaker. Zimmerman served as a member of the Hazardous Materials Response Team in Phoenix, Arizona, and was deployed to New York City on Sept. 11, 2001.
Zimmerman told the students that rubble from the buildings were almost 10 stories high when he arrived. He told of the photos of missing loved ones that were posted on a fence containing the area, and also of the people who tugged at him, showing him photos of the missing in hopes he had seen them.
Speaking on courage, Zimmerman told of five New York City firefighters who were sent to the North Tower to evacuate those inside. He said they were on the 40th floor when they came across a woman in the staircase who could go no farther.
“They had a choice,” Zimmerman said. “They could leave her, or stay and help her out. They knew the building was going to collapse. The South Tower already had collapsed.”
He said the firefighters stayed, and the building collapsed when they were on the 10th floor. A void was left in the staircase, however, and all six survived. Zimmerman said the woman was saved due to the courage of the firefighters.
He said the day leaves him with many memories, of lost friends, and also new friends. Zimmerman told the students there are different types of courage, including not only physical courage, but moral courage as well. Moral courage is standing up and doing what’s right in a situation, he said. Zimmerman encouraged the students to always remember the sacrifices made that day.
In addition to responding to the 9/11 attacks, Zimmerman has also responded to the Northridge, CA earthquake in 1993, the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building bombing in 1995, Hurricane Katrina and Rita in 2005, and Super Bowl XLII in 2008. Following his address, he was presented with a gift of appreciation by Rho Kappa President Isaiah Pauley.
The students also watched films surrounding the events of 9/11, and heard readings by Rho Kappa members Courtney Rickard and Lexie Layne. Member Sydney Whaley led students in the Pledge of Allegiance, while Advisor Catherine Hamm led a moment of silence in honor of those who lost their lives.
First responders were invited to the ceremony to be recognized, and were honored with a reception following the event. Representatives from the Mason County Sheriff’s Department, Mason County EMS, and New Haven Fire Department attended.
Mindy Kearns is a freelance writer for Ohio Valley Publishing, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org