Each of the past three years that I have had the privilege to write this story, each time I have found myself becoming increasingly emotional from an event that I thought I had compartmentalized in my mind several years ago. But the events of September 11, 2001 are so compelling, it is simply not something you can put in the back of your mind and try to forget. In fact, we shouldn’t forget. For so many reasons, we must never forget.
The documented facts of this terrible day have been repeated each year in television documentaries, the news, and throughout online and social media. Terrorists attacked the U.S. cities of New York City, Washington, DC, and Shanksville, Pensylvania. People died on this day; thousands of people. And for the first time since the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, the United States was under attack on its own soil. But the first attack on the U.S. mainland was unique; it was not a formal military attack by a foreign nation, but an attack of terrorist who hated us and wanted to inflict as much damage, death, and destruction that they could in the most unspeakable way. Civilian jet airliners were hijacked and flown kamikaze style into buildings killing hundreds, if not thousands at one time.
As a retired educator, my perspective is through the eyes of the scores of young people who have been students in schools that I have overseen throughout my career. Twenty-one years after the attack means that no K-12 student was alive when the attacks occurred, and now, we are just one to two years removed from college students having grown up in a post 9/11 world and not knowing what life was like before the attacks. So much has changed in reaction to the attacks, and younger people today have no frame of reference to know the world any differently.
But, out of the ashes of death and destruction, one positive thing may have came out of this terrible day. As a nation, we seem to have greater respect and appreciation for our service men and women, as well as emergency personnel and first responders. For those of us who remember September 11, we remember, among other things, the repeated images on television showing firemen, police, and paramedics going into the dangerous areas when all others were fleeing away as fast as they could move. And that is the premise for this story. In this writer’s opinion, 9/11 has become not only a day of remembrance of those who died, but a reminder of how much we owe our emergency personnel for protecting us and being there when we need them the most.
Throughout the Paris community, like most rural communities, are tributes to our fallen service men and women. There are signs of patriotism, a loyalty to our nation that is not lost in small town America.
But there is also a local connection to the paramedics and emergency personnel who responded in New York City, Washington, DC, and in Shanksville on that dark September day. Our local emergency medical technicians, fire and rescue, police, and county Sheriff’s Office. All, I would dare say, are not fully appreciated, until we are in a time of dire need.
There are pictures of New York City firemen, for example, who were photographed that day on the highway moving toward the World Trade Center complex, and according to reports, none of the firemen on the truck survived the response and the subsequent collapse of the towers. And on a local level, we honor our emergency responders who today, throughout Logan County, don’t always know what they are walking into when the respond to a call.
Mr. James Green is the director of EMS services in Logan County, and last week I had the opportunity to visit with him regarding county EMS services and how the events of September 11 have affected his industry. “Since the events of 9/11, there has been a lot more training involved to be prepared for situations such as 9/11.” I asked Mr. Green if he thought people had forgotten about 9/11, and he said, “I believe we will never forget about it.”
And I believe Mr. Green is right. Of course, we all get caught up in the events of our daily lives, but the simple fact is, we can never forget the horror, the despair, and the near-panic that we all felt on the day of the attacks. We all remember where we were and what we were doing; in a very similar way that our families may recall what they were doing on the day that President Kennedy was assassinated.
Since that day, the number of people looking to become paramedics has decreased, according to Mr. Green. When I asked why he thought this was the case, he said, “A lot of it is the pay. There are related fields that pay more.”
Covering Logan County on a daily basis are approximately six trained persons on a total of three trucks. If one is taken out of service to transport a patient, say, to a hospital, that leaves fewer people to respond. And when those highly trained individuals respond to a call, they never know potentially what type or how dangerous of a situation they may be responding to, such as someone who pulls a gun on a crew. It is a dangerous job, and although the Logan County crews may not be responding to something as dramatic as the collapse of the World Trade Center, their job is very dangerous and is an act of bravery by everyone who serves.
A very wise person once quoted that all news is local, and even though the news of the 9/11 attacks on the east coast were far away and a long time ago, their effects resonate locally. Airport security standards, emergency personnel training, insurance rates and coverages, all have experienced reactions from the terrorists attacks that day.
So, this Friday night, if you are at a high school football game, without doubt, the home school will likely present some sort of 9/11 tribute and remembrance. When they do, please take a moment to vow that you too will never forget. Never forget that terrible day, and never forget the brave people both then and now who responded and continue to respond for the safety and welfare of us all.
And finally, we should never forget how blessed we are to live in this great nation. The day that saw us in a rare moment of unity, regardless of politics, united for just one cause…the protection of our great land.
Our great nation…we vow to never forget.