Supporters gathered Friday under cloudy skies to commemorate the 14th anniversary of a date that will forever carry with it a memory of tragedy: Sept. 11.
It’s hard to look back on that day when so many lost their lives, but to remember them is to honor them, to support their country and the freedoms it stands for, local residents said.
The 700 miles from Greenfield to New York felt a little closer Friday as residents paused to remember the terrorist attacks that changed America forever.
Time to remember
The Hancock County Veterans Memorial park is meant to be a place where people come to remember: the names of lost soldiers and sailors, firefighters and police officers are listed there in memoriam, and etched in stone is proclamation “lest we forget.”
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Butch Bodell was a young Marine during the Vietnam War. He said he knows the name of each city he served in and many of the cities nearby, the faces of the soldiers he served beside. And he remembers the anger that filled him many years later when that land he’d fought to protect came under attack, he said.
As rain fell Friday, Bodell and other members of the Greenfield Veterans Honor Guard lined the park to pay homage to those who died Sept. 11, 2001. The guard’s commander, Bob Workman, read the names of Hoosiers killed on that day, and members fired a 21-gun salute in their honor. Afterward, they traded stories about where they were and what they were doing on that day 14 years ago — when hijackers crashed three planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, killing nearly 3,000.
Bodell was working as an animal technician at the Eli Lilly factory in Greenfield on 9/11. A co-worker ran into the lab where Bodell was stationed and shared the tragic news.
“He said, ‘Butch, I think we’ve been hit,’” Bodell recalled. “I went home and told my wife I wanted to join up again. She said ‘Butch, you’re crazy.’”
Those feelings were shared by many veterans, Workman said; for him, it was shock that later turned to frustration.
“Once you’ve fought for this country and fought for freedom, it was a major insult,” he said. “Everyone had the same feeling – if we’re going to go to war, I want to go.”
The honor guard’s ceremony was a chance for the veterans to recall the patriotism they felt in the days that followed the attack, Workman said. They also wanted to recognize the firefighters and police officers who aided victims on 9/11, as well as thank the men and women who serve as first responders in Hancock County.
For a moment, the guard considered calling the ceremony off because of the heavy rain but thought better of when their symbolism became too strong, Paul Baker, the group’s chaplain, said.
“The firefighters fight fires in the rain; police patrol the highways in the rain; and the military fights in the rain,” Baker said. “So, we can do this in the rain. If we get wet, so be it.”
‘What we’re fighting for’
For the first time in his eight years of teaching, Lukas Haworth, a history teacher at Greenfield Central Junior High School, faced a classroom full of students Friday who weren’t alive Sept. 11, 2001.
Teaching students about the tragic events of that day presents a new challenge for Haworth, he said. While it can be a delicate subject to broach with young students, he said it’s important to address the lingering questions many still have about the impact of 9/11.
“These kids, they don’t know firsthand the emotions that day brought, but they see our troops overseas fighting,” he said. “While I think they understand that it was a global tragedy, it can be hard for them to relate to, and I want to try to clear up any confusion.”
Haworth showed his class of 23 eighth-grade students a series of news clips from the coverage of that day, including a cellphone recording of a mother trying to reach her son who was aboard one of the hijacked planes.
The presentation served as a poignant reminder of what 9/11 meant to the nation, students said.
“It’s interesting and upsetting to learn about,” said Kaitlyn Koehler, an eighth-grader. “But it was useful to hear about so I know what happened and what we’re fighting for.”
Into the fire
To run into a fire is a calculated risk, one Josh Hensley has been taking for many years. During his tenure with the Greenfield Fire Territory, the firefighter has seen many tragic things happen, things that make the job difficult. The tragedy of 9/11 was just another one of those things.
Hensley was an hour into a 24-hour shift when he first heard about the attacks 14 years ago, and he watched the news unfold from the station.
He doesn’t think he would have done anything differently than the men and women in New York did that day, he said. It’s just the job: run into the fire.
“It’s just one of those things: once it’s in your blood, you can’t get rid of it,” Hensley said.
A group of firefighters joined those gathered Friday in the Hancock County Veterans Memorial park for the brief ceremony. While those they protect clutched umbrellas, the firefighters stood in the rain and greeted the “thank you” messages from passersby with humble nods.
Aaron Graham was in the sixth grade on 9/11. At the time, he’d never considered being a firefighter; career choices weren’t on his mind back them.
He watched the attacks on a television in his classroom and saw images that haunt many.
Graham became a firefighter anyway. He said doesn’t regret it.
“Because it’s the best job in the world,” he said.
Dressed in a red tutu and blue T-shirt, Kaylie Middleton picked her way through pieces of stuffing. With each little handful, the 5-year-old filled the arms, legs and belly of what would become a teddy bear.
On Friday, more than 20 members of the Hancock County American Heritage Girls troop gathered at Mohawk United Methodist Church to form an assembly line of bear-makers. They will deliver the toys to local fire stations in the next few days, and the bears will then be given to the children first responders meet during their emergency runs.
American Heritage Girls is a faith-based organization that encourages young girls to serve their communities while learning about religion and history.
Mary Jane Bogle, the local group’s service project coordinator, said she planned the project as a way to bring purpose to a day with a terrible history.
Bogle was two weeks from giving birth to her first child when the 9/11 attacks took place. She found herself thinking “what kind of world are you bringing this child into,” she said. Fourteen years later, she shared the day with her daughter while serving others.
And watching the girls come together to make positive memories on a day marked by tragedy, she found a sense of peace.
“It feels like good triumphing over evil,” she said.