Editor’s Note: This is the 11th in a series of articles published by The Apopka Voice in 2016 that were the most noteworthy events of the year. The Apopka Voice will publish them starting Monday, December 26th and running until Sunday, January 1st. On January, 2nd we will publish a poll and let the readers decide on which story is the most impactful of the year.
Originally Published: September 11th, 2016
On September 11th, 2001, two commercial airliners departed Logan International Airport in Boston bound for Los Angeles. On board each plane were five hijackers from the terrorist group al-Qaeda. The terrorists diverted the planes to New York City and slammed them into the North and South towers of the World Trade Center.
Police officers, firefighters, and first responders ran into the fire and smoke and rubble that the twin towers had become in an attempt to save those left trapped and injured in the buildings.
"It was a day of unspeakable tragedy," said Apopka Fire Chief Chuck Carnesale reflecting on the events of 9/11. "A day we can never forget. But it was also a day of hope and heroism. The sacrifice of those firefighters and first responders inspired the country, and revealed the true character of America."
The attacks killed 2,996 people and injured over 6,000 others. It was the worst attack on US soil since Pearl Harbor, and the deadliest incident for firefighters and law enforcement officers in the history of the United States. 343 firefighters and 72 police officers lost their lives on 9/11.
Most of us remember where we were during those attacks. President George W. Bush was in a classroom in Sarasota, FL before being taken to Air Force One. Diane Velazquez and her husband Ed were NYPD Detectives on 9/11, and in New York City.
"It changed my life and it changed my husband's life," said Velazquez, an Apopka City Commissioner. "We can never forget the events that happened on September 11th."
Christian Lamphere was not born yet.
Apopka was not directly impacted on 9/11… actually a better description would be Apopka, like every metropolis, city, township and hamlet in the United States, was directly impacted by 9/11.
And today, 15 years after that tragedy, Apopka remembers…
The City of Apopka recognized the 15th anniversary of 9/11 this morning with the unveiling of a special memorial which was the idea and Eagle Scout project of local Boy Scout Christian Lamphere. Mayor Joe Kilsheimer, Police Chief Michael McKinley and Velazquez were all inspired by his actions, and praised his project as something the Apopka community rallied together to make happen by the 9/11 ceremony.
“The City of Apopka is so proud that Christian selected this memorial to earn his Eagle Scout rank,” said Kilsheimer. “The project has brought our community together for a very special remembrance of September 11th and galvanized a patriotic spirit in everyone involved.”
"To see how bright our future is, you just need to see how this community came together to make a boy scout's dream come true," said McKinley. "And we have to remain a community and country united. It should not take a horrific event like 9/11 for us to remain a country united. A country united can overcome anything."
"When confronted with obstacles, he found a way around them," Velazquez said of Lamphere. "He challenged all of us. He challenged me. His persistence has given us strength."
The memorial features a 10-foot exterior building panel from the World Trade Center as well as two pieces of Pennsylvania granite. The memorial, which sits on a pentagon-shaped foundation, includes fountains, flower beds and brick pillars with plaques dedicated to first responders and the City of Apopka.
McKinley hopes the sentiment for 9/11 first responders who lost their lives can keep today's law enforcement officers, firefighters and EMT's in the community's thoughts and prayers as well.
"We must reflect on the lives lost on September 11th when the towers came crashing down," he said. "We must also reflect on the job that first responders do every day. They leave their families and provide assistance to complete strangers. They don't do it for recognition. They don't do it for the pay. They do it to keep our communities safe. They are fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, sons and daughters. They are us."
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