NEW YORK—Rachel Donelson from Charleston, South Carolina visited Ground Zero for the first time on the seventeenth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
The 33-year-old mother of two says she remembers the attacks like it was yesterday.
“When it happened, I was in school,” she said. “They just dismissed us, no one knew why.”
Returning home, she found out about the tragedy on TV.
“It floored me. For here, of all places, to be attacked.”
Seventeen years later, carrying a bouquet of white flowers, she was at the Ground Zero memorial site to pay her respects.
When asked how the tragedy has influenced her life, she said: “It made me more cautious, more aware, more grateful.”
They Came From Ecuador
The Damiáns from Santa Ana de los Ríos de Cuenca, Ecuador came to New York with their son to join this year’s 9/11 anniversary events. Although their son had been working in the city at the time of the terror attack, but was safe. But the tragedy “left a deep and lasting impression” on them all.
They said they came to the memorial to honor those who were lost in the tragedy—a cataclysm that shook the entire world.
New Yorker Honors Those Close to Home
William Watson, a personal trainer from Brooklyn, told the story of his cousin, one of the first responding police officers.
His cousin had served overseas in Beirut, Lebanon during the 1980s. “He said he knows what it’s like to see an explosion, or a bomb site” said Watson.
Yet when it was on his own soil, “he said he was devastated,” said Watson.
He also paid respects to the fire department first-responders he grew up near. On Sept. 10, he left flowers at FDNY Rescue 2 in Crown Heights. Some of the first-responders from that department did not return from ground zero.
“The police department is doing an excellent job,” said Watson, as are counter-terror organizations in his estimation.
Along with acknowledging the police and firefighters, Watson also made sure to honor one group that is not mentioned as often: nurses and medical staff.
Watson plans to keep coming in future years. He hopes interest does not decrease in the memorial, and thinks people will continue remembering it, just like they remember Pearl Harbor.
“It affected us all,” said Watson. “We’re still strong; this is the best city in the world.”
Principal Felt Shockwaves of 9/11 in Chicago
Seventeen years ago, the shockwaves of the 9/11 attack rocked the world of Charles Roza as far away as Chicago. Roza, now retired school principal, said the morning of Sept. 11, 2001 is indelibly marked in his mind.
“I remember the teachers running down the halls. Somehow, someway they had heard about the attack, and I did not hear it because I was with the children. So, I was trying to calm them down,” he said.
It was Roza’s first year principal and it was the start of the school year. Being his first time in a position to lead teachers and students, and calm them down amid a catastrophe, 9/11 has always held a special significance for him.
He recalled visiting New York with his wife two months after the attack and the cloud of dust from the debris surrounding Ground Zero was still visible from the Empire State Building.
Roza has made a point of annually commemorating 9/11 at the Chicago, Jacqueline B. Kennedy School which he oversaw.
“As was said, ‘If you don’t study the past, you’ll be forced to relive the past.’”
It’s important to him that children know why 9/11 should be remembered.
“I want those children to remember … what happened today, also why it’s patriots day—why we show our patriotism on this particular day,” he said.