POINT PLEASANT — The 20th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorists attacks, and the heroism that countered it, was recently observed locally at Riverfront Park during a service organized by the Ladies Auxiliary of American Legion Post #23.
Mason County Sheriff Corey Miller was the emcee of the program, delivering the welcome and opening remarks.
“Let us not forget the courage and bravery and the unity that Americans showed in response on that terrible day,” Miller said. “In the face of tragedy, we all stood united together and rallied around a country that we hold so dear. Today, we gather in memory of the innocent victims who lost their lives and in honor of the brave American service personnel who stood together, many who gave their lives to save others…”
Miller introduced guest speaker, Dennis Zimmerman, former director of Emergency Services of Mason County. Zimmerman came to Mason County in 2016, when he was a consultant for the United States Department of Homeland Security with its Center for Domestic Preparedness. His background included working as a hazmat/medical specialist with the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Urban Search and Rescue Team in Phoenix, Ariz., and he responded to the following large scale emergencies: Murrah Federal Building bombing in Oklahoma City, Okla. in 1995, the summer Olympics in Atlanta, Ga. in 1996, the World Trade Center Attack in New York, N.Y. in 2001, Hurricane Katrina in 2005. He was also a Cpt. Paramedic Hazmat Technician for the City of Phoenix from 1983-2008.
It was while working in Oklahoma City that he first met New York City Firefighter and Chief of Operations Ray Downey, with his team also there working at the site of the Murrah Federal Building bombing.
Zimmerman recalled Downey looking at him and what was left of the Murrah Building, saying: “You know we’re probably not going to make it out of this building?”
“You’re probably right, but it’s what we do,” Zimmerman recalled answering. “That motto of ‘what we do’ rings throughout the fire service and emergency response service. Unfortunately, Chief Downey and 93 of his special ops people died that day at the World Trade Center.”
Zimmerman and his team eventually deployed to New York City on Sept. 28, 2001.
“You guys have all seen the pictures [of Ground Zero], they do not do it justice from being there in person,” he said, also conveying the camaraderie and support from citizens of New York and across the country was “unbelievable.”
Zimmerman spoke on the nearly 3,000 souls lost that day and how 412 were emergency responders and 55 were active military.
“There are people in the emergency response field, all of them, today, 20 years later, that are here to protect, to serve us as citizens and if need be will make the ultimate sacrifice…those firefighters [on 9/11] going up those stairwells knew, but they went anyway for strangers.”
Zimmerman said those firefighters saved over 10,000 people, if not more and “kept going up.”
In closing, Zimmerman talked about “the day after” on Sept. 12.
“We all remember how this country felt, we were united, we all were bothers and sisters, there was none of this division we see today,” he said. “Never forget those responders and people who lost their lives but never forget…as a nation, how we came together as one and were united in our resolve…”
Local first responders were also recognized for their efforts in local communities across Mason County.
Performer Cee Cee Miller also provided musical selections, with performances of the “Star Spangled Banner” and “Where Were You When The World Stopped Turning.”
Also participating in the program, Brenda Adkins who delivered the opening prayer and Bruce Adkins who delivered remarks of support for the country and troops, performed “God Bless the USA” by Lee Greenwood and offered the closing prayer.
The Ladies Auxiliary also provided laminated, special 20th anniversary programs, with a timeline of events in 2001.
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Beth Sergent is editor of Ohio Valley Publishing.