Today marks the 12th anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks which hit New York City and Washington D.C., although for almost all Americans, the attacks hit home.
Whether you knew someone, lost someone, or just remember that day, it is one that will likely resonate with you the rest of your life.
As a region that sits anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour from New York City, it’s hard not to feel a personal connection to the attacks. As many have said, “You will always remember where you were on Sept. 11, 2001 when the attacks hit.”
I was sitting in Mrs. Roman’s seventh grade social studies class at Haverstraw Middle School that fateful day.
There was a strong ora in the air, as most of us students knew something was going on, but nothing was being told to us. Again, this is before the time of smartphones, Facebook, Twitter, and other “at-your-fingers” information sources which most pre-teens have access to now. So, the only information we could or would get, was whatever the teachers would tell us, when they chose to tell us.
Granted, this is going back half of my life, but I still remember Mrs. Roman breaking down crying when she heard the news. I remember it was something about her son, that he may have been in the area; but thankfully it turned out that he was fine.
The principals called the school into the auditorium for an assembly to inform us what had happened. I remember a classmate of mine yelling that his dad was there, but the principals thought he was trying to joke in an obviously joke-free setting, so they had him removed.
But one student did lose her father. Tara Coughlin, an eighth grader at the time, lost her father John, a member of the NYPD in the attacks. We found this out after the assembly, of course, but the following weeks were understandably emotional. I actually just came across this article that Tara’s older sister Erin went on to become a cop, and was given her late father’s badge number.
I was fortunate enough not to lose anyone close to me in the attacks, but as a lifelong Hudson Valley resident, it’s something that will always be in your mind. It actually trips me up sometimes to think that most high-schoolers now were mere infants that day, with no real recollection of the tragic events. I always think I’m “showing my age” when one of my cousins doesn’t know or remember *NSYNC or the Backstreet Boys, but it never really crosses my mind that they likely don’t remember a thing about that day.
Two years ago, I was watching ESPN on an early-September day — nothing out of the ordinary — when I saw an ‘Outside the Lines’ documentary entitled, “The Man in the Red Bandana” begin to air with Ed Burns’ voice in the background, giving a gripping lede along the lines of, “What would you do in the last moments of your life? Who would remember it? What would it look like?”
I knew it was 9/11-related, but other than that, it just seemed like an intriguing piece.
Then just few minutes in, you find out the story is based on Welles Crowther, 24-year-old Nyack graduate and volunteer fireman who had eventually given his life in the attacks after saving as many as 12 people that day. The story is a truly emotional piece that was beautifully written, expertly documented, and an definite eye-opener.
No doubt you will see it playing on a loop throughout the day on ESPN, and if you have 15 minutes to spare, I strongly suggest you watch it — especially on this of all days. Since you are reading this now, I have embedded the story below for your convenience.
Whether you’re a parent, who hopes to never have to one day bury their child —
a student, of any age, who realizes this was done by a (for all intents and purposes) “kid” who was a month younger than me now at the time of his passing —
or just a Rockland County resident like myself, who still can’t believe that an act this selfless came from someone who lived just a short drive away.
Remember this day — today, and everyday.
Video and photo courtesy of ESPN’s “Outside the Lines”