September 11, 2022 - Stories

Portrait of a Hero -
Remembering 9/11

The day before passed uneventfully, with restaurants filled with laughter, passengers embarked and disembarked on the trains below the city. The financial district was upbeat as stock rallied from earlier losses, parents picked up their children from school and raced them to an after-hours activity.

There were irritated passengers due to delays at airports all over the country for one reason or another. Traffic slowed due to thunderstorms on the east coast. People were busy making dinner, doing chores, walking the dog, or taking in a beer at a local bar.

Sept 11, 2001, is a day that has been burned into our memory forever. Seconds after the World Trade Center towers were attacked by terrorists flying hijacked planes, events unraveled as New York was the first attack. The Pentagon came under attack on the west side and then Shanksville, Pennsylvania where brave passengers of flight 93 fought to stop their hijackers and suffered the same fate when it crashed in a field. 19 terrorists in all were to blame.

We look back at how this moment in time has changed us and what these heroes mean to us today. It was a horrific time as America faced both the worst and best of humanity. It was also a moment that united us as a country. Communities came together to help each other.

It’s important to bring back that sense of togetherness by honoring our firefighters, police, first responders, healthcare workers and citizens that served and continue to serve and sacrifice for the good of humanity – one sacrificial act at a time, both large and small.

Janet Wood, volunteer at World Care from 1997-2014 (a local Southern Arizona non-profit that responded to the disaster) remembers the terrifying events that unraveled as the organization began its day.

“I remember that day shifted from school supply distribution to a statewide 24/7 collection and shipping center along with over thousands of volunteers wanting to help. We watched on T.V., people jumping out of windows as the towers continued to burn. When the towers fell, everyone stood in shock and silence and many holding each other and crying. It was horrifying but the people kept coming, wanting to help and they never stopped working. Life for everyone changed that day,” she said in a heavy sigh.

Volunteers from area healthcare providers were scheduled to leave Tucson after World Care received special air clearance to fly into Teterboro N.J. After two days it quickly went from a rescue to a recovery mission. Jim Click provided the aircraft to transport and local hospitals donated medical supplies for emergency recovery stations at ground zero. Every news station and media outlet rallied to help spread the word and support.

Janet recalls that Mike M. entered World Care to volunteer at ground zero and she asked him what his skill sets are to help. Mike responded that he was a former fire fighter and a spelunker. He said, “The only thing I know is that I must go to ground zero. I know I will carry this in my soul.”

A team of eight assembled within hours at Tucson National Airport to go to N.J. and then on to New York by vehicle filled with supplies and skills. World Care’s warehouse was several blocks from ground zero. Once supplies were received, they were distributed, often by small truck and foot to local businesses. Makeshift health tents were constructed to manage affected people. Thousands of locals volunteered their time over the following two years.

During the attack, 2,977 were killed and over 6000 injured. Among those killed were 343 fire fighters, 71 law enforcement and 55 military. Since the attack, many civilians and first responders who worked on the site have died from cancer and with chronic illnesses related to this tragedy. A bomb sniffing K-9 dog named Sirius died in the Sept 11 attacks.

For them and those at the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania it was the last time they will eat dinner with their family, read a book to the kids, ride home from work, decide who’s going to do the dishes, kiss their husband or wife goodnight.

It remains as the deadliest terrorist act in world history.

Many Americans remember where they were and what they were doing at that moment in time. But a growing number of Americans have no personal memory of that day or its significance because they were too young or not yet born. We must not forget our history and heroes. We must not forget the tragedies and the triumph.

We are asking you to support the Arizona Heroes Memorial. This Memorial is the future for our remembering and educating all generations. Our history is to learn from – not only from 9/11 but from all the history of our heroes that is slipping away from each generation.

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