By Emily Hoover | firstname.lastname@example.org
Photos by Robert H. Heinrich
Graphic by Victoria Van Arnam
For Richard Glover, who worked as a firefighter in New York City for 26 years, anniversaries are bittersweet.
Even though Glover and his wife, Janet, retired to Palm Coast, Fla., five or six years ago, the wounds of Sept. 11, 2001, have not yet healed.
“Ten years doesn’t make a difference,” Glover, 55, said. “It’s always a bad time. Sometimes you don’t want to get out of bed, but you do and you move on.”
Glover said he was working overtime at a fire station in the Bronx when the first plane hit the north tower of the World Trade Center. He said initially he thought it was an accident, until the alarms sounded for a second fire in the south tower.
“[The second plane] was the key, because we knew there was a problem,” he said. “Being at work, everything activated. I was the boss, so I loaded the truck with the extra stuff we would need, and I tried to get there.”
He said he did not know it would be the worst day of his life.
“Your whole life changed, whether you know it or not,” Glover said. “I don’t understand how people can forget, because it was the greatest attack our country ever took. Hopefully, they’re teaching it in schools, because it is not an option to forget.”
Flagler College English professor Caryn Register, whose flight out of New York City was grounded on the morning of the attack, said people forget because of distance.
“It is a raw wound for some people,” said Register, who was born in The Bronx. “But, I think anytime you’re far away, you can feel the pain; you can empathize, but you can’t really feel it. It’s out of sight, out of mind, in a sense.”
Glover, who said he worked non-stop for months during recovery, agrees.
“The humanity and purpose is fading,” he said. “People bond in disasters; it’s normal and natural. Then, it will fade. Will it come back? I don’t know.”
Flagler College junior Harold Hood said he sees a change in the U.S. since Sept. 11. Prior to the attacks in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania, Americans could “get away with” speaking against the majority, he said.
“There is less room for inconsistencies in beliefs now,” Hood, a communication major, said. “You can’t differ in the little details anymore, because you’re a terrorist if you disagree. It’s like, ‘You agree with me or you’re against me.’ I think the little details [in our belief systems] are what makes our country great.”
Flagler College junior Marcia Vojcsik agrees. She said even though she does not support war in the Middle East, she supports American soldiers.
“Patriotism is important. I don’t believe in denouncing America,” said Vojcsik, who is pursuing a degree in both English and theatre arts. “But, I don’t go for blind patriotism. It is important to ask questions, question everything and think for yourself. I’m proud to be an American, but we make mistakes, and we have to learn from them.”
Hood said he believes politicians have a tendency to skew the memory of Sept. 11 for personal gain.
“[In some respects] 9/11 is used the wrong way,” he said. “Politicians evoke it; they use it as a rallying cry, an advertisement. It’s disrespectful to those who died.”
Jerry Dickens, who relocated to Palm Coast from Brooklyn, said patriotism lurks inside Americans. He said he worked in Emergency Medical Services following the 9/11 disaster and during recovery.
“Everyone is up, at first, flying flags,” Dickens, 61, said. “Now it’s like, where are the flags? [Patriotism] is a little ember, waiting for that fire to ignite it. ”
Dickens, who was off on Sept. 11 and was having a phone conversation with his daughter during the attack, said his ex wife was trying to leave the south tower when the second plane hit. Even though she survived, Dickens said he lost a lot of friends and experiences survivor’s guilt.
“I was feeling scared and worried,” he said. “Not for myself, but I just kept thinking: ‘How many friends did I just lose?’ When I saw the names on the list, it was like the towers fell down all over again. The terrorists won, not by bringing down the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, but because they are scaring people.”
Scott Anson, who said he has lived in St. Augustine for 13 or 14 years, said 9/11 has allowed the U.S. government to “invade our privacy like never before.” He said he acknowledges the disaster as “horrible,” but also says Americans need to be careful.
“The Patriot Act is the most unpatriotic thing,” he said. “Because of 9/11, we have more security, but we have lost a lot of rights in the process. We’re supposed to be fighting to protect [our rights] in the first place.”
Anson said government surveillance and interrogations, which involve detention “for an indefinite amount of time,” serve as an invasion of privacy.
“A lot of people swallowed [The Patriot Act],” Anson said. “They can watch you whenever. They are using 9/ll to the public’s disadvantage and using words like ‘casualty’ and ‘collateral damage’ to mask it.”
However, Glover said because he was there, he believes the security is necessary.
“People will complain no matter what,” he said. “It’s not an infringement on our rights, because it should have been this way before 9/11. Do we have too much security? Seeing [ground zero] first hand changes your perspective. I’ve seen what can happen.”
“If you have nothing to hide, you shouldn’t be afraid of security,” he said. “It’s an inconvenience I am willing to put up with to keep civilians safe. These folks don’t need to become body parts I saw at the trade center.”
While Flagler College junior Emily Ward, an art education major from Corpus Christi, Texas, said she considers herself a loyal American, she said airport security is “out of control.”
“Security is touchy, and I think it can be a way to take advantage of people, especially with girls getting felt down,” she said. “I think, sometimes, they are taking advantage of a complicated issue that has already divided our country.”
Register, who said her 93-year-old grandmother worked at the World Trade Center for several years, said she too sees a divide. She said as an English teacher and an “analytical thinker,” she has trouble with the words patriotism and nationalism, because they mean something different for everyone.
“Being proud of this country is different than the ‘us versus them’ mentality,” she said. “Because if there is ‘the Other,’ then we are creating a hierarchial order of thinking, a binary. We are saying something or someone is better than ‘the Other.’ For me, if I’m alive and you’re alive, we’re all the same.”
Ward said she also believes that unity will strengthen the U.S.
“Because of the war, some people say, ‘forget America,'” she said. “But I support my country regardless of the leader. It’s not the easiest of times now; I can’t even get a job. But, I always respect whoever is in charge.”
In an effort to memorialize Sept. 11, Register said she will take her English students outside of the classroom to sit on the West Lawn to free write about how the disaster affected them as young children. She said she will bring in a painting to stimulate thinking.
“It should be a national holiday of remembrance. I don’t know why it’s not,” she said. “Everything’s shifted; everything’s different in this country. It should be memorialized in some way.”
Additionally, the Palm Coast chapter of the Elks Lodge — where both Glover and Dickens are members — has formed a piece of steel from the World Trade Center into a structure of remembrance. Glover and several firefighters and EMS workers who have retired in the area assisted in its construction. A ceremony is scheduled for 10 a.m. on Sept. 11.
“It’s an educational thing to get the people who have forgotten,” he said. “Look at that steel out front. We make it known, though it hurts to open the wound. But if two more people learn what went on that day, then it’s worth it.”