Local first responders remember 9/11


BUCKHANNON — It was a place that depicted devastation and destruction.

At the same time, it was an area that radiated with triumph and joy.

The wide-ranging spectrum of scenes and emotions Buckhannon Police Chief Matt Gregory saw and felt when he recently visited the National September 11 Memorial and Museum spanned from grief, fear and desolation to joy, pride and perseverance.

He shared some of those memories with a group of city and council officials and first responders who’d come together on the steps of city hall Tuesday morning to commemorate the 17th anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001, known as 9/11 or Patriot Day — the most devastating terrorist attack to occur on U.S. soil.

“There’s a section that you walk through and you actually see the mangled fire trucks and you see the mangled police cars … all the equipment of the first responders, their name badges,” Gregory recalled of Sept. 11 memorial.

“But when you leave the memorial, right there’s Freedom Tower (also known as One World Trade Center) rising above Ground Zero, above the memorial, and to me that was a testament to the American spirit of triumph,” Gregory said. “That was the other end of the emotional spectrum that I got.

“I think that’s the takeaway of this,” he added. “It’s the spirit of triumph of the first responders and those who fight for our freedom and of all Americans who lived through this and who continue to endure and fight for our freedom.”

Buckhannon Fire Chief J.B. Kimble said he marks each anniversary of Sept. 11 by watching the documentary about the coordinated terrorist attacks involving four hijacked airplanes, which left nearly 3,000 people dead and more than 6,000 injured.

“It reflects on how we should enjoy every day of our life and go on and not be in fear of stuff like that,” Kimble said. “Every 9/11, I sit down and I watch the documentary to bring out the aspect of what those people did that day and a lot of those people knew that they probably weren’t going to make it through the day.

“As first responders, it doesn’t matter if it’s raining, snowing, lightning, wind — it doesn’t matter, we’re there,” he said. “That’s the mentality. We’re here to protect people and not that something [to that degree of seriousness] would happen here, but we’re prepared and we’re ready to do what we have to do for our communities.”

Upshur County Commission president Sam Nolte similarly acknowledged the selfless sacrifice of the law enforcement officers, firefighters and other first responders who — without hesitation — ran up the stairs and “Into the Fire” as the title of a track on Bruce Springsteen’s 2002 album “The Rising” about Sept. 11 suggests.

“The first responders who ran into the burning buildings, they knew what they were in for,” said Nolte, who made a point of thanking local first responders for their dedication and bravery.

Mayor David McCauley also shared several reflections on the terrorist attack.

“There’s just certain things — whether they’re really, really good or really, really bad — that we are formed individually and as a society, and I can’t think of anything that I was more touched by than the terrorist attacks that occurred 17 years ago on 9/11,” he said.

“This morning, we remember all of those who perished, but we are reminded to be ever vigilant and to appreciate that terrorism lurks always ready to rear its ugly head,” McCauley continued. “We thank our Buckhannon-Upshur first responders who work every day to help keep us all safe, but we’re also reminded that we all must be cognizant of the threats to our way of life, and not to shrink away from our responsibilities to share information with our authorities about any perceived threats whether foreign or domestic.”

McCauley warned local residents to be wary of threats to America’s democratic society from within as well as from without the U.S.

“Remember, often our worst threats emanate from inside our nation and society,” McCauley added.

During Tuesday’s commemoration ceremony, McCauley signed a proclamation titled “Patriot Day: A Day to Remember” that calls for a local annual memorial service dedicated to the women, men and children who died Sept. 11, 2001.

The purpose of the annual memorial observance is to promote peace and goodwill; demonstrate the U.S.’s resolve and perseverance to win the war on terrorism; advance responsible citizenship; encourage patriotism and love of country; and pay homage to the innocent victims of Sept. 11.

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