Health & Safety, Technical Rescue

WTC 15th Anniversary: A Time to Remember

Unite; Educate; Promote Safety, Health, and Resilience—and Pray

A view of Lower Manhattan with the tribute in light at Ground Zero.

By Mary Jane Dittmar

It has been 15 years since the hijacked planes hit the two World Trade Center (WTC) towers in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington, DC and a plane was taken down by passengers in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. These attacks, no doubt, have “set into motion events that continue to impact the course of modern history,” as History Channel noted in its description of programming for the anniversary.


The events of that day have been ingrained in the minds of Americans and people throughout the world, most of whom witnessed them on television. They assaulted people’s emotions, sense of security, and “sense of reality.” As the artist Julian LaVerdiere, who with artist Paul Myoda installed the “Phantom Towers” that have come to be known as the “Tribute in Light,” told The New York Times Magazine: “It is an emotional response more than anything—the towers are like ghost limbs; we can feel them even though they’re not there anymore.” The 9/11 Memorial and Museum now manages the light installation. The lights will be turned on at sunset on September 11 in lower Manhattan (West and Morris Streets) and turned off at sunrise.

Probably the most noticeable effect of 9/11 is that it instilled in people the indomitable spirit that has given rise to the “We will never forget” promise many reverence as dearly as a sacred vow. “Our foundation strongly believes that Americans must never forget what happened on 9/11,” says Frank Siller, chairman of the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation and brother of Stephen Siller, a Fire Department of New York (FDNY) firefighter, who lost his life on 9/11 while responding to the WTC. Stephen’s six siblings established the foundation in his memory. The Foundation is sponsoring the “9/11 Never Forget Mobile Exhibit” at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum at 303 Pearl Street, Grand Rapids, Michigan,  from September 9 (2:30 – 5 p.m.); September 10 (9 a.m. – 5 p.m.; and September 11 (7 a.m. – 7 p.m.). The FDNY chose the artifacts in the exhibit: a piece of steel from the WTC, aluminum façade from the towers, recordings of first-responder radio transmissions, and video segments. Four FDNY firefighters will be at the exhibit to offer guided tours.


9/11 also fostered a determination to promote unity among local communities and regions; among all responders—fire, police, emergency services, and the military; resolve not to allow a terrorist attack defeat us as Americans, and a commitment to ensuring that the young people of this world will be taught about the event and its significance. Heidi Young, the family assistance center specialist for the Idaho National Guard Family Program, explains as she describes her area’s community-get-together planned to mark the 15th anniversary of 9/11: “It’s about remembering how we all felt after the shock of everything had died down and how our community and our nation came together. We weren’t going to allow a terrorist attack to defeat who we are as Americans …. This event is designed to bring us all together and to remind us that we have to help each other through the worst of times and celebrate the best of times.”

Lockport, New York. Unity is also the theme here, where prev


Rev. Steve Antin of Lockport Life Church, Lockport Police Department’s lead chaplain, has organized the Lockport United 9/11 Memorial Ceremony which will take place at 2 p.m., Sept. 11 in the city hall parking lot, One Locks Plaza. The ceremony will remember the 343 New York City firefighters, the 72 law enforcement officers, and the 55 military Pentagon personnel who lost their lives on 9/11 and honor local first responders’ sacrifices and service. Members of B. Leo Dolan Post 410, American Legion, will be placing 2,977 small American flags around city hall to commemorate all of the lives lost on Sept. 11, 2001.

Idaho State University. On Sept. 11, 3 p.m., a commemoration ceremony will be held in the parking lot of Holt Arena on the Idaho State University campus. Registration begins at 3 p.m. The first 900 attendants will receive a free T-shirt. Blue, red, green, and yellow shirts will represent the lost lives of men and women in law enforcement, fire, medical services, military personal, and civilians, respectively. Ribbons will be distributed to those who arrive after the T-shirts have run out. The names of those who lost their lives on 9/11 will be listed at the event and people will be encouraged to write a name from that list on their shirt or ribbon. After the service, the procession will walk back to Holt Arena for a community block party in the parking lot. Admission is free

Helping the Next Generation to Remember

Cedar Grove, New Jersey. David Schoner, a resident and a member of the Cedar Gove (NJ) Board of Education, acted on his desire “to create something that could honor the victims and start a conversation between kids and parents and the community.” Inspired by a display he observed at Pepperdine University in California, Schoner developed the “Cedar Grove Waves Art Installation.” The display, implemented last year, consisted of a flag representing the home country of each 9/11 victim (2,977 flags) waving on the front lawn of the high school. This year, the display is expected to include also individual markers with the name of a victim placed in front of the country flag, an index and grid to locate the name of the victims, and the names of the victims of the 1993 World Trade Center attack. (Schoner was conducting a fundraiser on the Web to cover the additions and any display items needing replacement.) The display will be up from Sept. 11 to Sept. 23.

Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Another educational event is the “Action to Honor” learning session set at the Flight 93 National Memorial. Students and teachers can join a live, distance learning session on Sept. 9; the videoconference will go live at 9:30 a.m. and at 1 p.m. The one-hour program is free; students from coast to coast can participate. The National Park Service, Internet2, and the Keystone Initiative for Network-Based Education and Research are partners in this project. Students can submit questions during the 50-minute broadcast.  Educators are required to register for the electronic field trip at The memorial will provide live stream Web programming between the broadcasts from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Users can connect at

Volunteerism, Charity, and Love

In accordance with the will of the survivors of the victims of 9/11, a number of the commemorative events of 9/11 are associated with volunteerism and helping others.

One of the earliest established charity fund-raisers resulting from 9/11 is the New York City Firefighter Stair Climb. A local newspaper reported that in March of this year, 343 firefighters from 29 states and four countries climbed a World Trade Center tower in full gear to honor the firefighters killed on 9/11. Two New York City firefighters, Chris Barber and John Mills, founded this event. Memorial stair climbs take place throughout the year in many venues, including at the Fire Department Instructors Conference International in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Gander, Newfoundland, Canada. On 9/11 when 38 planes carrying 6,600 passengers had to be diverted because the United States had suspended air traffic, these planes and passengers landed at the airport in Gander, Newfoundland, Canada. The Gander residents welcomed the stranded passengers and saw to their needs for days; many of the residents and passengers still maintain the relationships they established.  On Sept. 10-11, Gander, along with Wounded Warriors Canada and the area Chamber of Commerce, are hosting an ecumenical event to help raise awareness — and funds — for Wounded Warriors Canada, a group dedicated to honoring and supporting Canada’s ill and injured soldiers, veterans, first responders and their families. 

On Sept. 11, at 2 p.m., a service will be held at the Steele Community Centre.  Participating will be renowned Canadian tenor Robert Pilon, who has portrayed the title character in the Toronto production of The Phantom of the Opera and Jean Valjean in Les Misérables. He will be joined by the town choir. Dignitaries and representatives from the police and fire departments of New York City are scheduled to attend. Tickets are free and can be picked up at the Community Centre box office; organizers hope ticketholders will donate $9.11 in honor of 9/11.

Gander, this year, will be the recipient of steel beam recovered from the south tower of the WTC as a “thank you” for its hospitality toward the passengers of the diverted planes on 9/11.  The beam left from Manhattan on Sept. 6 for Gander under the escort of a group of FDNY bikers, many of whom are retired. The delivery of the beam was arranged by the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation. The beam will be installed at the Gander airport.

Northern Kentucky and Greater Cincinnati. Residents will participate in the September 11th National Day of Service and Remembrance. Habitat for Humanity of Greater Cincinnati has planned events that span the week of 9/11 to provide additional volunteer experiences and advance the construction of several new homes in Latonia Lakes in Northern Kentucky and in East Price Hill in Cincinnati. The project is kicking off on Sept. 10, there will be two days off to get materials together, and the volunteers will come back Wednesday through Saturday. During the week of service, Habitat for Humanity will remember the victims of 9/11 and honor the heroes who work daily to ensure our safety and freedom. Habitat for Humanity has partnered with Home Depot to increase the emphasis on assisting veterans in its home repair program. To volunteer, e-mail [email protected], or contact Heather Cockram at (513) 482-5614. http0://

Financial District, NY: Tuesday’s Children, a nonprofit for people who experienced loss from 9/11 and terrorism internationally, is hosting its Rise Up Downtown benefit in Lower Manhattan, Friday, Sept. 9, at Three Sixty Degrees, 10 Desbrosses St.  Victims of 9/11 and their family members will be honored.        

Westchester County, New York. Executive Robert P. Astorino, Volunteer New York! and Robison Oil are hosting “9/11 Day Serve + Remember.” This year’s theme is “Service. Empathy. Unity.” Volunteers may sign up for serving opportunities on Friday, Sept. 9, through Sunday, Sept. 11, 2016. The duration of the shifts vary. Many volunteer opportunities are family friendly; all activities will help support one of 40 local nonprofits and causes. Service projects will kick off from 2 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 9, at the County Center in White Plains and will run throughout the weekend at locations across Westchester County and the surrounding area. Register online at or call (914) 948-4452. On Sept. 9, Westchester County will host its annual employee blood drive in partnership with the New York Blood Center from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 9, at the County Center. To sign up or learn more, contact Janet Lokay at [email protected] or (914) 995-2127.

Anne Arundel County, Maryland, is encouraging volunteers to join the National Day of Service and Remembrance initiative on Sept. 10. After a brief ceremony at the Maryland World War II Memorial held from 8:30 a.m. – 9 a.m., the Volunteer Center and its partners, including Anne Arundel Recreation and Parks, Friends of Anne Arundel Trails, the Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs, Ocean Conservancy, the U.S. Naval Academy Midshipmen Action Group, and community volunteers will commence environmental projects starting at the Maryland W.W. II Memorial and continuing to Jonas Green Park. This is a rain-or-shine event. Advance registration for volunteers is required; to register, contact (410) 897-9207 or [email protected].


Many people have become severely ill, and a number of them have died of these illnesses in the years following 9/11. The numbers continue to grow. John Howard, M.D., administrator of the World Trade Center Health Program, noted in the Program’s “2014-2015 Year in Review” that “the need for 9/11 related healthcare is as urgent as ever.” The program now serves more than 70,000 people, and more than 3,600 new members joined the program from July 1, 2014 to June 30, 2015. July 1, 2015, marked the fourth anniversary of the established by the Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act.

Beginning with Sept 11, 2001, the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH) has worked extensively on WTC-related occupational and environmental health issues. Within days of 9/11, NYCOSH produced and distributed a series of fact sheets about respiratory protection and safe work and clean-up procedures. NYCOSH has been conducting outreach on the WTC Health Program to key groups of workers, including responders in the building trades, city and state agencies, and union and nonunion workers comprising Spanish-speaking responders and survivors who have either lost touch with the program or have not been able to access outreach literature. NYCOSH is dedicated to reaching as many 9/11 responders and survivors as possible to inform them of the WTC Health Program administered by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

NYCOSH launched the Health for Heroes Campaign to locate workers who were 9/11 responders and survivors so they can access health coverage and monitoring through the WTC Health Program and financial compensation through the Victim Compensation Fund. The presenting partner, the New York City Central Labor Council (AFL-CIO), and the lead partner, the New York Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York, kicked off the campaign in March throughout the city. The campaign will continue through September with NYCOSH providing outreach and enrollment assistance to organizations and individual workers. NYCOSH says that although more than 70,000 responders and survivors are enrolled in the WTC Health Program, it is estimated that 400,000 were exposed to the WTC-derived contaminants. Just fewer than 18 percent of those who were exposed are enrolled.


A safety issue that was raised by the WTC tower attacks, and still remains today, is how to safely evacuate occupants of high-rises like the WTC towers. Experts have been studying that issue and have been exploring ways to expedite evacuation in emergencies. Among the proposed solutions are the following: add a staircase so first-responders can go up without interfering with evacuees descending; incorporate local and express elevators coming down; update and implement codes; devise ways to evacuate disabled people from the large structures; pressurize elevator shafts to keep out smoke; prevent water from stopping elevators; and protect building cores.


Project Rebirth, Inc. (, is sponsoring an “Evening of Hope and Healing” on Sept. 10, 3 p.m.-6:30 p.m. at the Manassas (VA) Hylton Performing Arts Center, 10960 George Mason circle. Admission is free. Project Rebirth is a resilience resource for those serving community and country. The program will include the viewing of the Project Rebirth short film, Rebirth: Brian. The subject of the film is the brother of a New York City firefighter killed on 9/11 who overcomes post-traumatic stress disorder. The program will feature also the following speakers, who share their inspiring stories about overcoming challenges arising from their career/service and developing the resilience that helped make them “heal” and also help others.

• Bob Gray, a retired Arlington County (VA) Fire Department battalion chief who responded to the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon, will speak about his traumatic brain injury and his work with the Project Rebirth First Responders Resilience Network team.

• Virginia U.S. Marine Matthew Hallinan will address the challenges of integrating back into civilian life.

• Jesse Hempen, an officer with the Prince George County (VA) Police Department, will discuss how being shot in February while responding to a domestic violence call has altered his life.

In addition, Manassas City (VA) Police Captain Tina Laguna will speak on the challenges officers face in the field and advise of the resources available to help them.

The Manassas (VA) Museum will feature “Manassas Remembers 9/11,” which will be open from Sept. 9 through Nov. 27. A new exhibit, which focuses on veterans’ service in Iraq and Afghanistan, has been in development for more than a year. It will open Sept. 9 and remain on view through Feb. 2017.;…


The Sept. 11 “Cry Out America” prayer outreach of the Awakening America Alliance and Center for Spiritual Renewal, an eight-year-old cooperative initiative encompassing more than 150,000 churches, ministries, and parachurches in North America, is asking Christians to recognize the nation’s deep spiritual need, advises Kay Horner, Awakening America executive director. Immediate past Southern Baptist Convention President Ronnie Floyd issued a 9/11 prayer call in July and August requesting that churches devote at least 11 minutes and up to an hour to prayer in Sept. 11 worship services. The Cry Out America movement began in 2008 on the steps of courthouses in the nation’s 3,143 counties and has spread to include schools, churches, and parachurches, and marketplace ministries, and has a presence in all 50 states. “Cry Out America” has been a unified effort, much like the fall version of the National Day of Prayer. “People put aside their logos and their egos and come together to just seek God,” Horner explains. Free Sept. 11 prayer resources and promotional materials are available at


The emotions and internalizations associated with 9/11 and its effects not surprisingly have opened artistic channels for expression of feelings about that infamous day. Numerous commemorative events of the 15th anniversary of the WTC attacks are associated with the Arts.

Los Angeles, California. Sarah Tuft’s 110 Stories will be presented in Los Angeles on Sept. 10 at 7:30 p.m. and Sept. 11 at 3 p.m. at The William Alderson Acting Studio. Directed by acting teacher William Alderson, many performers will be featured, including Mark Pellegrino (Quantico, The Big Lebowski, The Number 23); Academy Award winner Mira Sorvino (Falling Skies, Do You Believe?, Mighty Aphrodite); Brian White (Chicago Fire, The Cabin in the Woods, Fighting); Golden Globe nominee Diane Venora (The Insider, Heat, Bird), and additional celebrity performers to be announced. Tuft says, “Remaining apolitical, 110 Stories memorializes September 11 by humanizing history to reveal our innate compassion.” Tickets are at $40.

New York City, New York. FACT Theatre Company will present the first staged reading of Standing Tall, an adaptation of the book of the same name. The book is a compilation of e-mails, journals, and creative writing based on people’s experiences of 9/11. The Nov. 7 reading, directed by Laurie Eliscu, will take place at the ArtNY Bruce Mitchell Theatre Off-Broadway, 520 Eighth Ave., 3rd Floor. Author Lynn Manuell says of her work, “Each entry is immediate and not something viewing the event from the perspective of history, but from a need to reach out to others experiencing the same event at the same time.” She adds that the focus of the script is to highlight the “communal spirit” that emerged following the tragedy. “As we have had nearly 15 years pass, this communal spirit that emerged has disappeared. I wanted the caring that followed these events to be the focus of this script …We see every day how far we have moved from this place, and I hope the play will help to remind us of our heartfelt response.” For tickets to the reading, contact the writer at [email protected].

As a tribute to the victims of 9/11, The Foundation for the Revival of Classical Culture will present a performance of the Mozart Requiem by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and other works. There will be four performances (Sept. 9 through Sept. 12: consult the Web site below for venues and times). Mozart Requiem will be performed with a 42-piece orchestra, an 80-member chorus, and four soloists. The performance is the concluding program of a four-day “Living Memorial” to the victims of 9/11 and their families. Other concerts are being held in the Bronx, Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Morristown, New Jersey, over the preceding three days. New Jersey’s Terry Strada, founder and head of 9/11 Families and Survivors United for Justice Against Terrorism, who lost her husband, Tom Strada, in the 9/11 attack, will give the opening remarks. There is no admission; a free will offering is suggested. For more information, call (718) 709-8722, or visit.

Thousand Oaks, CA. Music, poetry, and a multimedia presentation at California Lutheran University on Sept. 10 at 7:30 p.m. in Samuelson Chapel on the Thousand Oaks campus. The multimedia presentation will be shown as additional tributes to the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and their families. Donations will be accepted. For more information, call the Music Department at (805) 493-3306, or visit


History Channel will present a week of programming, including three original primetime documentaries and a series of digital shorts: 15 Septembers Later premiered on Sept. 5. 102 Minutes That Changed America: 15th Anniversary and America’s 9/11 Flag: Rise From the Ashes will air on Sept. 11 at 8 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. ET/PT, respectively.

On Sept. 11, National Geographic will air 9/11: The Longest War, at 9 p.m./8 p.m.(c) It is a new two-hour special that provides a comprehensive look at the past 15 years–from the buildup to the attacks as the devastating events unfolded to the military response in the years that followed–leading up to the present day. It draws from a wide range of sources.

CNN Films acquired the Naudet brothers’ documentary 9/11 that first aired on CBS. The document by French-born filmmakers Gédéon and Jules Naudet, who also executive produced with retired Manhattan firefighter James Hanlon, will be updated to include a new introduction by Denis Leary, for broadcast on CNN worldwide. The project will be re-titled 9/11 Fifteen Years Later and will debut with limited commercial interruption, in back-to-back broadcasts, on Sept. 11, 2016, at 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. on CNN/U.S. On CNN International, it will premiere Sept. 11 at 6 a.m. with encore broadcasts at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. In the update, the filmmakers revisit some of the firefighters and their families. Daniel Nigro, New York City’s Fire Commissioner, answers questions about his department’s readiness in the event of another attack, particularly at the recently completed One World Trade Center, aka “Freedom Tower.”

The ”Mysterious”

Sometimes, events occur that set us to wondering, “Is that fate?” “Is someone really watching over us?” The question is often framed according to our personal frame of reference. Two  items that could fit this category in the coverage of WTC-15 is the following.

It involves the American flag that was raised by three firefighters on the ruins of the WTC on 9/11. It seems that soon after it was hoisted, it disappeared and attempts to locate it failed. Lo and behold, the flag was recovered in Washington State and will be on display permanently at the National September Memorial & Museum. (Details of the flag’s whereabouts did not surface with the flag.) After announcing on a TV program that the flag, originally taken from a yacht in the New York harbor, a man brought the flag enclosed in a plastic bag into a fire station in Everett, Washington. On Sept. 11, the History Channel will broadcast a program on the flag’s recovery and what transpired after it was returned. The chief executive and president of the memorial and museum summed up the symbolism surrounding that flag: “To not have that flag as a part of the museum, it always felt like there was something missing. It was a symbol of not only hope, but of strength. We needed both at the time.”

Another example involves an FDNY helmet. It was lost during 9/11 WTC clean-up operations. It somehow wound up in an Alabama household, where the helmet originally was a gift to a five-year-old boy. As the years passed, the helmet wound up in a storage unit in the home. After a chance “reunion” with the helmet, the boy’s father looked under the cloth lining inside the helmet and saw a name and badge number. After several phone calls and messages back and forth between the boy’s father and various agencies, the owner of the helmet, John Iammatteo, who had retired from the Fire Department of New York and was now living in North Carolina, received a message from a firefighter friend advising that his helmet was found. The helmet finally reached Iammatteo this summer. The full story is at…  

Mary Jane DittmarMARY JANE DITTMAR is senior associate editor of Fire Engineering and conference manager of FDIC. Before joining the magazine in January 1991, she served as editor of a trade magazine in the health/nutrition market and held various positions in the educational and medical advertising fields. She has a bachelor’ degree in English/journalism and a master’ degree in communication arts.