9/11: As the Years Mount, So Does Our Resolve

The World Trade Center and Lower Hudson River Shipping as seen From the Staten Island Ferry in May 1973. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. National Archives.)


By Mary Jane Dittmar

The terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001, may have happened 16 years ago, but their impact on our humanity has not diminished. The hurt and sense of loss, the emotional and corporal toll, and the threat to life are still as electrifying as they were in those darkest days when Ground Zero was the smoking, hazy, sacred pile in what was one of Manhattan’s thriving business districts. This can be seen in some of last week’s news and the events scheduled for this anniversary commemoration.

What also becomes evident as you sort through these activities and events is that the spirit of humanity is alive and well. People are sharing their experiences of that momentous day to help others, and there are newly revised stories of heroes and tower occupant/heroes who lost their lives while saving others. Faith, resiliency, good will, a deeper appreciation of our democracy, tolerance, generosity, and so many other honorable and humanity-preserving traits shine through the plethora of commemorative events.

As in the past, most communities and regional areas are planning memorial services. There are also many stair climbs, exhibits, and media events. You can find information on them in the news of the localities. (Note: A 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb calendar is posted at stairclimb@firehero.org.) Listed here are some of the events that have elicited in me emotions that usually are attached to reviewing the issue of 9/11 and assessing how we are coping as individuals, as a nation, and as members of the global community.

Despite my emotional roller coaster, I am encouraged by our strength and resilience, especially from those who have suffered firsthand losses of loved ones and those who have fallen seriously ill from Ground Zero-related illnesses, those who are fearing contracting “Ground Zero” illnesses, those who are becoming encouraged to deal with post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health problems, teachers and other community members who are dedicated to making sure that our children do not forget what happened on 9/11 and the lessons it has taught us. Here, I include each of us who have our own memories, anticipations, and fears, especially our first responders who must live daily with the possibility that every call to which they respond has the potential to be terrorist-related.

It has taken 16 years, but the groundbreaking for the final phase of the Flight 93 National Memorial’s Tower of Voices took place on September 10 as part of a 16th-anniversary commemoration ceremony. The 93-foot-tall tower contains 40 wind chimes, representing each of the passengers and crew members onboard the plane went it was taken down by the passengers who had learned through their cellphones that they were part of the terrorists’ attack plan. The plane went down in a strip mine in Somerset County, Pennsylvania, which is the site of the proposed memorial. Construction of the tower is expected to be completed in 2018.1

Southern Methodist University (SMU) was the site of “Democracy in Action.” The Texas university was going to relocate the annual students’ flag memorial because its message may “triggering” or “harmful” to some. It proposed moving the 9/11 flag memorial, which includes about 3,000 small American flags, from the Dallas Hall Lawn at the center of its campus to a less prominent location. However, the students and the general public as well as the state’s governor protested; the display was not moved. SMU President R. Gerald Turner advised, “I thank the students who met with the University officials to express their concerns about our initial decision to relocate the display. In coming together, students representing a range of organizations engaged in discussions with administrators and each other to find common ground, exemplifying an effective way to resolve issues. Throughout the process, they demonstrated their commitment to the free exchange of ideas and civil discourse, a commitment that SMU as an institution of higher learning shares.”2

“You can’t lift the sadness, the weight of sadness from myself and the members of this department. It’s something we carry with us 365 days a year,” said Fire Department of New York (FDNY) Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro.3 Last week, the department added the names of 32 members—the most since the wall was established in 2011—to a memorial wall for those who died of 9/11-related illnesses. Relatives of each fallen member honored their loved ones by laying a white rose on the memorial during a procession through the Hall of Heroes. The total of FDNY personnel—firefighters, emergency medical services (EMS) personnel, civilian employees, and fire marshals—who died of illnesses attributed to working at Ground Zero or in other aspects of the recovery effort is now at 159. The majority of these 32 members died from cancer. In 2016, 17 names were added. In 2015, 21 were added.

Among the 32 additions were Edith Torres, Firefighter Kevin Rooney; retired firefighters Paul Santoro, John Dunn, Joseph O’Toole, Michael O’Hanlon, Michael Duffy; and FDNY Marine Engineer Robert Alexander, 43, and his father, Lt. Raymond Alexander, 76; both died of 9/11 cancers in the last year. The Alexanders are the first father and son to die from 9/11-related illnesses.4,5

“We cannot forget the unnamed dead of 9/11.” In a very moving column, Mike Kelley, who had spent some time at “The Pit” at Ground Zero (he acknowledges not as many hours as responders assigned there) while executing his reporter duties, shared sentiments that are probably engrained in many peoples’ psyches. I can relate only some highlights here, but the entire column is definitely worth your reading.

Kelley says he is one of the more than 80,000 recovery workers and others who lived and worked near Ground Zero who are being monitored by health organizations, and each year submits” to a wide range of tests, including breathing tests and chest X-rays.” He says he is lucky so far that he has no problems.

Kelley relates that James Zadroga, 34, a decorated New York City police detective, logged almost 500 hours at Ground Zero and died in 2006. Even though the national law to compensate workers for their illnesses was named after him, Congress tried to delay funding the Zadroga act.

“Now the list includes construction workers who helped to dismantle the steel rubble while also delicately searching for remains of victims. It also includes telephone workers who installed lines and even social workers who came to the site to offer counseling to the workers,” Kelley says. “In some ways, this list of victims is the unspoken shame of the 9/11 story. How did so many people get so sick? And why do so many others have to be monitored? But more importantly, why have so many who have died been virtually ignored?”

Kelley credits the police and fire departments in New York City for routinely adding names to their list of victims of the 9/11 attacks, but he laments that it took so long to overcome their “legal concerns about being held responsible for the health problems of their rank and file members.”6


“Major” 9/11 Ceremonies at the WTC

  • The 9/11 Tribute Museum welcomes all family members from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Those whose loved one is not yet remembered in the Remembrance Gallery may bring a photo; submission forms will be available, and staff will be present to accept photos. 9/11 Tribute Museum, 92 Greenwich Street, New York, NY 10006.
  • One World Observatory welcomes immediate family members to visit today as it did on September 9 and 10. Tickets needed.
  • Today, One World Observatory will be closed during the morning ceremonies and will reopen from 12:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. exclusively for parents, spouses, domestic partners, siblings, and children who lost loved ones on 9/11. Reservations are needed.
  • The National September 11 Memorial & Museum will hold a private ceremony on the Memorial plaza for 9/11 family members. The ceremony will begin at 8:30 a.m., followed by a citywide moment of silence at 8:46 a.m. The ceremony is expected to conclude around noon, and the Memorial plaza will remain open until midnight. Family check-in began at 7:00 a.m. at Greenwich and Fulton Streets.
  • The 9/11 Memorial Museum will open at 7:30 a.m. with last entry at 7:00 p.m. Tickets to the museum are free for family members; reservations are recommended. On September 10, 2017, the 9/11 Memorial Museum was open from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. for 9/11 families, 9/11 rescue and recovery workers, active-duty first responders, 9/11 survivors and lower Manhattan residents and business owners.
  • The Observance Ceremony at the Pentagon Memorial (Arlington, Virginia) begins at 9:30 a.m. September 11. The ceremony is by invitation only, for families of victims of the attack and survivors.
  • The Flight 93 Memorial Ceremony in Stoystown, Pennsylvania. Observance begins at 9:45 a.m. and is free and open to the public. The Observance will be held adjacent to the Visitor Center. The open-air service will include brief remarks, special music, reading of the names of the 40 passengers and crew members of Flight 93, and ringing of the Bells of Remembrance. At 12:30 p.m., there will be a wreath-laying ceremony at the Wall of Names on the memorial plaza with the Families of Flight 93, memorial officials and dignitaries. At the conclusion of the wreath laying, the ceremonial gate to the crash site will be opened; family members may walk out to the crash site. https://www.nps.gov/flni/planyourvisit/sept11observance.htm.
  • Austin Peay State University (Clarksville, Tennessee) remembers 9/11 anniversary with community art exhibit. Austin Peay State University commemorated the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks with “Honoring 9/11 through Art and Art Therapy,” a special community art project. Conceived by Ken Shipley, APSU professor of art, and Melody Shipley, ceramic artist, it supports and engages individuals “reflecting on the sacrifices of those who died on Sept. 11, 2001, and to honor those who rose in service and continue to serve as a result of that tragedy.” The program honors Gold Star families, specifically children of fallen soldiers from Fort Campbell, Kentucky, and plans to include veterans and families adversely affected by post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental and physical disabilities. Program participants created works of art to honor and remember their family members September 5-7 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.; artists, art students, mental health counselors, and graduate students in APSU’s Clinical Mental Health Counseling Program were on hand to assist. The art will be on exhibit at 5 p.m. on September 11 in the APSU Woodward Library.7
  • The St. Nicholas National Shrine at the World Trade Center (WTC). Every WTC building and the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church were destroyed on 9/11. In August, a formal lease and purchase agreement was signed by the executive director of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America and the Port Authority. The 198-year lease runs until July 31, 2215, and has an additional 99-year extension. There’s also an option to buy the land from the Port Authority of New York/New Jersey. According to the church, the rent is $1 per year. The church is being constructed at 130 Liberty St., the former site of the Deutsche Bank offices. The church is scheduled to opened in November 2018, its 102nd anniversary.8
  • In Massachusetts, the annual 9/11 Memorial Mass, sponsored by the Catholic parishes of Chicopee and Ludlow, will be held tonight at 7 p.m. at Our Lady of Fatima Church, 438 Winsor St. The liturgy, first celebrated in 2007 at St. Stanislaus Basilica in Chicopee, is organized annually by the 9/11 Memorial Mass Committee of the Hampden Central Deanery and rotates among the deanery parishes of Chicopee and Ludlow. A dessert reception follows. The liturgy is open to the public. A free-will donation will be accepted for the area’s Community Survival Center’s food pantry.
  • Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum (Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina) is hosting the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation’s 9/11 Never Forget Mobile Exhibit September 9-11 from 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Admission is free. Charleston-area first responders escorted the exhibit from North Charleston’s City Hall to Patriots Point. Today, Patriots Point, the town of Mt. Pleasant, and the Mt. Pleasant-based (WTC) plaintiffs’ law firm Motley Rice, LLC will host a ceremony at 8:30 a.m. in front of the 9/11 Never Forget Mobile Exhibit. Fire Department of New York Firefighters Chief John LaBarbera and Battalion Chief John Carroll are featured speakers. Both, part of search-and-rescue efforts at Ground Zero the day of the attacks (and for weeks afterward), are members of the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation Free admission is made possible by USS Yorktown Foundation and Motley Rice, LLC.

“When the 9/11 exhibit pulled away from Patriots Point in 2016, we made it a goal to bring it back for the anniversary of the attacks this year.

“It is such a powerful display and a reminder of the pain our nation endured 16 years ago. Every succeeding generation must be reminded what happened on that fateful day, and it should continue to be a rallying cry for patriotism in the United States.”

— Mac Burdette, Patriots Point executive director.9

  • In Decatur, Illinois, more than 70 union workers (from more than nine unions) have volunteered to construct a monument on the Nelson Park lakefront to memorialize the lives lost on 9/11 and to serve as a reminder of what happened on that day. Construction at the memorial’s site next to the Beach House Restaurant began on August 1 and was anticipated to be completed by today. A steel I-beam from the WTC was brought to Decatur in 2015 through the efforts of The George A. Mueller Beer Co. The $700,000 needed to buy materials for the memorial was raised by community members through local fundraising efforts, and “huge” donations of materials were made by local business.

“We as American patriots will never forget what happened to our country on 9/11. That’s the biggest reason we’ve been able to pull in as many volunteers as we have.”

— Riki Dial, southern region organizing coordinator for the Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters.10

  • Remembering loved ones with flags. Leigh Macadlo and Cynthia Brest each lost a brother in the WTC towers on 9/11. The women, members of the Western New York Families of September 11, will plant— for the 15th year— almost 3,000 American flags with family members and friends in a display in memory of all those lost on 9/11 at the headquarters of the Buffalo chapter of the American Red Cross at the mansion at 786 Delaware.11
  • Stanley Hryszkiewicz, a British electrical engineer, was running in New York’s Central Park on 9/11 when the Twin Towers were destroyed. This year, he is planning to run along the York-Selby cycle track. He was to embark from the bridge on Sunday from Bishopthorpe Road behind York Racecourse at 2.46 p.m. (London time when the towers were struck). He invited people from the York area to join him, especially Americans living in the city. He lived in New York for some years. Among the WTC victims were 67 British citizens.12
  • Staten Island’s First Responder Memorial will be dedicated October 1, 2017. Borough President James Oddo will host the dedication ceremony at 2 p.m. Although the memorial has been there for years and had an engraved dedication message, it did not contain the names of the fallen Staten Island responders. The ceremony will take place in front of the First Responders Memorial, adjacent to the Postcards memorial on the St. George Esplanade.13

The federal Office of the Inspector General released a scathing report on the September 11 Victims Compensation Fund. (It seems no issue is too sacred to escape bureaucratic, human errors, and “second-guessing.”) After completing a five-year study, the office says the fund didn’t keep supporting documents for some claims including proof establishing presence at the WTC. In addition, it didn’t release full compensation for some expedited claims, and there is concern that claimants’ personal information may have been sent through unencrypted emails. The Victim Compensation Fund released a statement saying it recognizes the Inspector General’s audit. It said it have made many changes, since the review was completed last year.14

First EMS Memorial. On September 10, ground was broken for the country’s first memorial dedicated to the EMS providers who responded to the attacks on 9/11. EMS Council of New Jersey (EMSCNJ) officials hope for a September 2018 completion date. “After an exhaustive search, we chose Keansburg for our memorial [site] for several reasons,” notes EMSCNJ President Joseph G. Walsh Jr. “It’s easily accessible and an area well served by EMS volunteers. In addition, its beautiful Raritan Bay coastline offers a view of the Manhattan skyline, which will help visitors appreciate the memorial’s significance.” 15

Remembering the original WTC site. Closed since the 9/11 attacks, Park Row, which runs directly to the New York Police Department’s headquarters at 1 Police Plaza and connects downtown Manhattan to Chinatown, will reopen next year to foot traffic. The project is expected to be finished in spring 2018.16

9/11 Anniversary: Memories of Downtown Manhattan author Helaina Hovitz speaks of the “post-9/11 revitalization of Lower Manhattan and memories of when her grandma took her to The South Street Seaport when she was a child. She contrasts the Seaport with the new “Seaport District: “Luxury stores, hip restaurants, and events galore are populating the same cobblestones that I used to push my doll stroller along.” She was 12 years old when the WTC attacks occurred; her apartment complex was never evacuated despite its close proximity to the towers, and she walked back and forth to school in a neighborhood that was closed off to the rest of the world.

“I hope that all of the after-work partygoers around Battery Park and Tribeca and FiDi and the Seaport District who are moving down here, lobbying for reservations at the new movie theater, flocking to concerts, and the “new and improved” Christmas tree lightings will pause for a moment when they get here. Rather than just taking a photo of the new Freedom Tower or ignoring it altogether, my wish is that they’ll take a moment to reflect, as they are afforded the luxury of doing so without having some of the most horrific images a 12-year-old could witness come to mind. I hope that people who still go about their day in movie theaters and concerts and run marathons from Boston to London appreciate how lucky they all are to be here, literally, here, while people whose lives were changed—and some, taken—forever, sit, walk, or sing alongside them.”17

— Helaina Hovitz


 “A boatlift helped to save hundreds of thousands of stranded people on Manhattan during the 9/11 attacks.” In her book, Dust to Deliverance: Untold Stories from the Maritime Evacuation on September 11, Jessica DuLong describes the boat operation as one that involved an estimated 800-plus mariners who evacuated almost 500,000 people stranded in Manhattan to New Jersey. She compares the operation to the Dunkirk mission during World War II and holds it up as “an example of resourcefulness and human goodness.”18

What “Our world needs you to remember:”

“Every one of us was changed, not only because of the attacks, but because the attacks changed our hearts and minds. We owe each name on this list [WTC victims} a debt of gratitude for showing us all what is possible in terms of our humanity. Their sacrifice led us to truly understand the depths of assistance that we are capable of when our focus is uninterrupted. With the 16th anniversary upon us, let us recall how purposeful we were in our unwavering commitment to our fellow human beings during that Fall of 2001 and replicate this mentality the best we can. Our world needs you to remember.”19

— Megan McDowell



  1. Debra Erdley, Tribune- Review staff writer, http://triblive.com/local/westmoreland/12611296-74/flight-93-officials-to-debut-tower-of-voices-in-sept-10-ceremony.
  2. Mike LaChance,  http://legalinsurrection.com/2017/08/southern-methodist-u-rethinks-decision-to-move-911-memorial-after-backlash.
  3. Lori Chung,  http://www.ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/news/2017/09/8/fdny-members-died-of-september-11-related-illnesses-honored-brooklyn-hall-of-heroes.html.
  4. Thomas Tracy, NEW YORK DAILY NEWS, September 7, 2017; http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/fdny-announce-32-9-11-linked-deaths-anniversary-nears-article-1.3476104.
  5. NEW YORK DAILY NEWS, September 4, 2017.
  6. We cannot forget the unnamed dead of 9/11. Mike Kelly, Record Columnist, @MikeKellyColumn Sept. 8, 2017, North Jersey.com, The RECORD, September 10, 2017.
  7. http://www.apsu.edu/news/September-2017-sept-11-exhibit.php.
  8. “A cross is lowered onto St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church last November,” Brigitte Stelzer. http://nypost.com/2017/09/05/agreement-signed-for-saint-nicholas-national-shrine-at-wtc.
  9. “Patriots Point to Host Mobile 9/11 Exhibit for 16th Anniversary,” Molly Hamilton, Sep 06, 2017, https://www.patriotspoint.org/news-and-events/patriots-point-host-mobile-911-exhibit-16th-anniversary.
  10. jcook@herald-review.com; http://herald-review.com/news/local/union-members-proud-to-be-a-part-of-memorial/article_621d9fb7-45ea-52b6-8531-311c8b2febc9.html.
  11. Sept. 11 families use tiny flags to remember loved ones, Jonathan D. Epstein, September 3, 2017, http://buffalonews.com/2017/09/03/world-trade-center-families-remember-loved-ones.
  12. “York-Selby run plan to mark 9/11,” Mike Laycock, http://www.yorkpress.co.uk/NEWS/15514141.York_Selby_run_plan_to_mark_9_11.
  13. Thomas Erik Bascome, tbacome@siadvance.com; Rachel Shapiro, Staten Island Advance.
  14. Inspector General issues scathing report on 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund, NY1 News, August 18, 2017. http://www.ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/news/2017/08/18/inspector-general-issues-scathing-report-on-9-11-victim-compensation-fund.html.
  15. EMS1 Staff, Aug 22, 2017. https://www.ems1.com/ems-heroes/articles/316281048-9-11-EMS-memorial-groundbreaking-planned.
  16. Park Row, Closed Since 9/11, To Reopen as Link From City Hall To ChinatownCiara McCarthy (Patch Staff) –  August 31, 2017, https://patch.com/new-york/lower-east-side-chinatown/park-row-closed-9-11-reopen-link-city-hall-chinatown.
  17. “9/11 Anniversary: Memories of Downtown Manhattan Will Always Be Marked with ‘Fear and Sadness.’”Helaina Hovitz  9/7/17;  http://www.newsweek.com/911-anniversary-downtown-manhattan-nyc-657358. Helaina Hovitz is an editor, a writer, and the author of the memoir After 9/11. She is the editor of Content Collaborations at http://www.newsweek.com/911-anniversary-downtown-manhattan-nyc-657358Upworthy/GOOD. Reach her on Twitter at @HelainaHovitzwww.HelainaHovitz.com, and Facebook.com/HelainaNHovitz.
  18. Jessica DuLong is a journalist, an historian, and the author of Dust to Deliverance: Untold Stories from the Maritime Evacuation on September 11. The views expressed are her own. (CNN) Christopher Nolan’s $150 million film “Dunkirk” may be the first that many Americans have heard about “Operation Dynamo,” the beachfront rescue in 1940 of 338,000 Allied troops trapped between Hitler’s army and the sea.
  19. Megan McDowell “9/11 Anniversary: Our World Needs You To Remember”; http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/911-anniversary-our-world-needs-you-to-remember_us_59b1428ae4b0c50640cd64ed/. Megan McDowell, MSW, LPC Megan McDowell is the founder of Heartworks, a 501(c)(3) Acts of Kindness group for women that replicates the kindness that began on September 11, 2001. Heartworks replicates the connection and transformative acts that Megan witnessed while living at her sister’s house for six weeks after her brother-in-law John was killed while working in the South Tower. She is a licensed therapist and social worker.


Mary Jane Dittmar is the 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’s degree in English/journalism and a master’s degree in communication arts.

Mary 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’s degree in English/journalism and a master’s degree in communication arts.

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