With the 10-year anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks approaching this weekend, Patch and Huffington Post are highlighting how the tragic events of that day have defined the last decade. We spotlight parents still coping with the loss of children in the attacks, area firefighters who carry on the memories of their fallen comrades and residents inspired by the volunteer spirit following the terrorist strikes that turned their lives around.
Today we feature stories from Aberdeen, Cockeysville, Dundalk, Essex-Middle River, Lutherville-Timonium, North Baltimore, Parkville-Overlea and Perry Hall. We also revisit the stories from Bel Air, Havre de Grace, Towson and Pikesville
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Anthony Cruz, 55, was making his routine coffee stop in the basement of the World Trade Center when terrorists attacked the buildings above on Sept. 11. At the time, he thought there was a fire.
“Little did I know at the time that it was an airplane,” Cruz said.
Outside, as people ran screaming from the building, he began snapping photos of the scene.
“I was clicking away until I saw something that looked like paper falling from the building. As the objects neared me, I realized it was people jumping to their deaths,” he said.
He said he and others began sobbing and yelling to people in windows above, begging them not to jump. But there was one image Cruz said he will never forget.
“There was a lady and a man holding hands as they were falling from the sky, and they never let go of each other,” he recalls. Since the attacks, he has been to therapy and even tried to join the military. But he had surpassed enlistment age. “I never take anything for granted now, especially living. I feel like I escaped death and now I live my life trying to make a difference.” — Amber Woods
Pam Rutledge, a Cockeysville resident, has always been a big fan of soldiers. But after the 9/11 attacks, Rutledge said her feelings intensified and she wanted to play a more active role in supporting “those who risk their lives for the community everyday.”
So Rutledge decided to join the Cockeysville Police & Community Relations Council. The council raises funds for the police department and hosts events honoring the precinct’s officers and promoting public safety.
The Police & Community Relations Council connects police officers with locals at regular monthly meetings and encourages open, honest dialogue between the two groups. Rutledge, who has two sons serving as volunteer firefighters, has acted as president of the council for the last four years.
“I really love what I get to do,” she said. “I am so grateful for all that our law enforcement does for us.” — Nayana Davis
Baltimore County police officer Ken Nacke of Dundalk lost his older brother Louis on United Flight 93 on Sept. 11, 2001. Nacke took part in a motorcycle convoy in July that helped transport a beam from the World Trade Center in New York to a new memorial in Baltimore.
“You miss the things that you take for granted like speaking to him everyday,” said Nacke, who lives in Dundalk. “Now that almost 10 years have passed, it’s a little easier, but you never forget.” — Ron Snyder
Essex Middle River
Kate Cox has been a Baltimore City firefighter for more than a decade. The White Marsh resident was in the department at the time of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
For her, commemorating the 10th anniversary is about ensuring that the memories of the hundreds of firefighters and police officers who died that day are never forgotten. She has been active in several events to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice. This includes participating with other members of the Baltimore City Firefighters Riding Group in escorting by motorcycle a steel beam from the World Trade Center from New York to Baltimore.
“What happened on 9/11 could have happened here or anywhere else in the country,” said Cox, whose husband, Dave, is also a Baltimore City firefighter. “Whether we’re from Baltimore or New York, we’re all firefighters and we want to pay proper tribute to them.” — Ron Snyder
Vernon Odle was volunteering at Our Lady of Mount Carmel when he heard about planes striking the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001 in New York.
Once Odle realized the severity of the situation, the Baltimore City firefighter from Middle River checked to make sure his then teen-aged children were OK. Then, his thoughts turned to the victims of the attack, especially the firefighters that entered the towers, never to return.
"When you're in this line of work, you know the dangers involved," said Odle, who teared up recalling the events of that day. "Seeing so many brothers and sisters from the fire department die that day hurt then and hurts now."
In the years since, Odle has worked to ensure the memories of those lost remain strong. He, along with other members of the Baltimore City Firefighters Riding Group, recently helped escort a beam from the World Trade Center to Baltimore.
They also participated in a memorial ride that included stops at the Pentagon and in Shanksville, PA—sites of the other terrorist attacks that day—before ending up in New York City.
"It was one of the most powerful experiences of my life," Odle said. — Ron Snyder
Sen. J.B. Jennings
Maryland State Sen. J.B. Jennings was greeting members of the Air National Guard two years ago after returning from an overseas trip. That interaction, along with his anger over the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, led the Republican lawmaker to join the Air National Guard himself in 2008—at the age of 34.
Jennings, 36, who represents parts of Baltimore and Harford counties, said he was the oldest member of his basic training unit, including his drill instructor. He said he felt a call to service in the years after the terrorist attacks after watching so many firefighters die on Sept. 11. Jennings is also a volunteer with the Jacksonville Volunteer Fire Department.
This year, his military duty forced him to miss much of his elective duty when he had to skip most of the 2011 Maryland General Assembly session due to required training with the Guard. "I just felt the need to do something," Jennings said. "I wanted to do more to serve my country and felt I had to do this." — Ron Snyder
Circle of the Immortals
The War on Terror following the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 has claimed the lives of nearly 8,000 U.S. soldiers. At Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens in Timonium, MD, that sacrifice is honored in what is called the “Circle of the Immortals”—a memorial for fallen soldiers. The Children of Liberty Memorial, seen in this photo, was added to the circle in 1991 after the Liberation of Kuwait.
The names of 21 men and women who have died at the hands of terrorists reside under the banner, "On behalf of the President of the United Sates please accept this flag in recognition of your loved one's service."
Of the 21 names, six come from terror attacks on The Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001—the most added to the plaque at one time since 1983. Kris R. Bishundat of Waldorf, Lawrence D. Getzfred of Silver Spring, Clifford L. Patterson of Wheaton, Darin H. Pontell of Columbia, William R. Ruth and Ronald J. Vauk, both of Mount Airy, are all honored here. — Nick DiMarco
Parkville resident Chuck Ritz—pictured with Hope Van Kuhn after escorting a piece of World Trade Center steel from New York to Baltimore—has made remembering Sept. 11 victims his personal mission.
This year, Ritz organized a motorcycle ride around the Baltimore Beltway that will culminate in a candlelight vigil at McAvoy's, a Parkville restaurant.
So far 400 bikes have preregistered for the ride, but Ritz expects as many as 3,500 bikes to participate — at a cost of $30 per participant, Ritz is hoping to donate $70,000 to the Flight 93 National Memorial Park and $10,000 each to the Wounded Warrior Project, the Frank J. Battaglia Signal 13 Foundation and the Johns Hopkins Pediatric Burn Unit. — Nick Gestido
Lt. Jack Amrhein
In the weeks following the Sept. 11 attacks, hundreds of funerals were held for fallen New York City firefighters. During several of these, Baltimore County professional and volunteer fire companies volunteered men and women to line the streets and assist in the public services.
“It’s like any other firefighter funeral. You’re upset and you cry when they play the bagpipes, and you don’t even know the people. As soon as they start playing bagpipes, it just starts the tears rolling,” said Lt. Jack Amrhein, a professional county firefighter and White Marsh volunteer.
“The funerals were usually in the mornings and by lunchtime, we’d made friends with some local firefighters and they’d take us to whatever their favorite lunch spot was and then we’d tour all the fire houses,” Amrhein said. — Emily Kimball
Benn Ray, owner of Atomic Books, compared Sept. 11 to when his father died. Both events abruptly made him aware of his own mortality. A decade later, he said remembering the attacks of 9/11 remind him that the nation is still vulnerable to terrorism. Ray also said that he feels the country’s current economic slump is still tied to the Sept. 11 attacks and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that followed. “Obviously [wars] have had a long term affect on our country and our economy, and the economic crisis we’re in now, anybody that says wars don’t have anything to do with that doesn’t understand economics,” Ray said. — Adam Bednar