I was blessed to be asked to give the 9-11 Keynote for the Lancaster County 9-11 Memorial Ceremony. I wanted to share it with you:
A Moment in Time
First of all, let me say, I should not be here today, none of us should be here, because this should never have happened, but it did…that Moment in Time that will forever change our existence as a nation. I will talk about a Moment in Time, although those events took hours, the reality is that in the timeline of mankind, those hours all put together were but a “Moment in Time.”
Further, I want to say, that no emergency responders should ever die in the line of duty. Today is about that Moment in Time, a moment that helped shape today and our nation’s future. That moment can continue to help us prepare or be forgotten as time passes. Today I will briefly talk about that moment in time. I am Nervous to be here in front of so many distinguished guests for such a solemn occasion, and wish we did not have to be here, that that Moment in Time never happened.
Thank you to the commissioners, our veterans, the cadets, our responders, to those that perished that day and for those that have perished since as a result of that horrendous day 14 years ago. Many have died fighting to defend this great nation and many have died in the pursuit of justice for the acts committed 14 years ago. Thank you all and may those lives never be forgotten.
I remember where I was when those towers were struck, just as most of you do, I remember where I was when I received the call that Bin Laden was killed, just like many of you…but something bothers me about my memories, soon, very soon, I will have college students in my classes that have no memory of September 11, 2001. To them, it will be like Pearl Harbor is to me, something you read about and study. My son, who will soon turn 21, is probably one of the last college classes to remember that day. These cadets standing before us were probably 1, 2, 3 or 4 years old on that day. I often think how do we make it important to this generation? How do we make that Moment in Time sustainable in this ever changing, very fast paced world, where we have instant message and email on our phone and snapchat and Instagram and who knows what else, a world where moments don’t seem to matter? How do we sustain our passion for being prepared while Never forgetting that Moment in Time?
I fear that we will forget, that we won’t plan, that we won’t prepare and that we won’t educate our future generations and this is a tragedy. That moment in time will win and we will all lose if we let this happen.
Look around and imagine all of us perishing in a few Moments in Time. In those fateful moments 343 firefighters died, 72 law enforcement personnel died, and over 3000 citizens died, all in that Moment in Time. Imagine your friends, your family, your colleagues lost, lost in a few fateful Moments in Time, moments that will never come back to us, senseless moments, unconscionable moments…we need to ask, and we do ask, could those moments have been prevented? However, if those moments could have been prevented is not what is material today because it did happen, what is material today is that we are here to remember those moments and those that died in those moments, and making sure we never let a moment in time like that ever happen again.
We all know what it is like to lose a family member or a friend; some of us know what it is like to lose a brother or sister in the emergency services. However, none of us here know what it was like at that Moment in Time. That Moment in Time hopefully made our nation stronger. But that strength, like a body builder lifting weights, you lose if you don’t continue to train and exercise, we need that strength from that Moment in Time to make sure we never have a Moment in Time like that ever again, not just here, but anywhere in this world. We need to continue to build our strength and get stronger, we need to continue to work together, training, planning, preparing, we need to continue to remember that Moment in Time, and never forget..that moment.
For I believe forgetting that Moment in Time is almost as horrendous as the act itself, if we are not vigilant, if we cannot take our safety and our security seriously, then all those people who perished in that moment, both civilian and responder alike, died senselessly at a far greater cost then even paid on that day. They died without cause and for no benefit for the present and the future, no one should ever need to die for a cause, but the reality of it is a cause was born in that Moment in Time
Here in Lancaster County it may be hard for us to imagine what it was like to be in NYC, or Washington DC or even Shanksville in that field. But not being able to imagine what it was like, versus never forgetting that Moment in Time are two different things completely. We don’t need to know what it was like; we need to know that it could happen again. That Moment in Time needs to be immortalized in our Nation’s memory, never to be forgotten, but yet we look around and see that many seem to have forgotten, are we letting down our guard and are we destroying the memory of those that lost their lives in those Moments in Time, both on 9/11 and in the years since?
This is not about our enemies; I am not going to stand up here calling people out….I am more concerned that we soon will have a generation that did not know the experience. I remember the first WTC bombing, and OKC, and then 9-11, and Boston and many failed attempts before and since. I am a firm believer in preparedness and self-reliance, both as individuals and as a Nation.
It’s about education, it’s about preparedness, it’s about not dwelling on the past, but remembering the past and all the sacrifices…it’s about vigilance, it’s like that song…have we forgotten, they took it all off the tv…I believe we should show the towers being struck and falling. We should show it every week, or maybe even every day. We MUST NOT Forget that Moment in Time. This may sound strange at a 9-11 memorial service, but it’s about places like the Nickle Mines, why, because like those of us in Lancaster County who said it can’t happen here, I think it was the same nationally with 9-11. On October 2, 2006 ten little Amish girls were shot by a lone gunman, on October 1, 2006 if I would have asked most people in Lancaster County if such a thing could take place, most, if not all, would have said it can’t happen here! Terrorism was other places, the Middle East, Asia, Europe even South America, but not here. We have shootings in schools, at malls, in movie theaters…it can happen here!
Locally we are very lucky because we work closely with seven of our surrounding counties and the State on a daily basis. Regionalization and working together is something we need to remember, all of us working together is the ONLY way we will prevent another 9-11. None of us can go it alone, but all of us can work together to prevent another Moment in Time.
So how do we prepare, while remembering and paying honor to those who died as a direct result and indirect result of that day. Vigilance, preparedness, nosy neighbors, coordinated efforts, government support, neighbor helping neighbor. Did he say nosy neighbor? What are nosy neighbors? Nosy neighbors are our best friends when it comes to being prepared. My mom sits at the window of her house, reading, eating, watching the world go by. I used to give her grief about being nosy, but then I had a moment, my moment! Who is the best source of information in her neighborhood if a disaster strikes? She knows who lives in her neighborhood, who is young, who is old, who is disabled, when they are home. She is a prime source, I stopped calling her nosy and named my nosy neighborhood program after her, we should all be nosy neighbors? For you younger members of our audience that is #NosyNeighbor! Do you know your neighbors? I tell her story all over the country, because it is that important. We NEED neighbors to be nosy, and we need neighbors to help neighbors. Ben Franklin had it right in 1732 with the volunteer fire service, each neighbor dividing up the work to help others in their time of need.
Report everything, there is an app for that, See Something, Say Something! Please never stop being Vigilant, Never be the person to say, “I knew that was going to happen.” Be the person that stopped it from happening!
Today is not about who I or we have learned from, but who I and you are learning from? Many of you are here today, Craig, Randy, Rick….and then there is my son David. David has had the life of growing up with a dad who is a safety guy, worked as a firefighter, studied and practiced EM…not for the faint of heart. For the past 8 years I have taught emergency management at Millersville. Many of my best teaching moments, and a lot of my best questions to my students have come from David. Either things we have done and lessons he has taught me, or questions he has asked me. To our younger members here, Don’t ever stop asking questions. To our educators and seasoned members, don’t stop answering, PLEASE!
Two years ago David went to Philly for school. We planned everything, including meeting spots if a disaster were to strike. I was nervous, but I know what I have taught him, and more important, what he has taught me, he is prepared. In two weeks he will be leaving for DC for six months to live. Am I nervous, yes, a little scared, yes….but he is prepared….he has good habits. How do I know he is prepared? 5 and 7, what is 5 and 7 you say? I am glad you asked. Three summers ago we were on our whirlwind college tour. After a long day we finally got to a hotel. I asked him to go check out the restaurant, he comes back a few minutes later, and he says, 5 and 7. What the heck is 5 and 7…5 doors to the left and 7 doors to the right to the emergency exits. You see David and I have traveled a lot from the time when he was small. Every time we got to a hotel, after he picked the best bed, we would go count doors to the exit in case we had to evacuate, a habit that was instilled in him and a habit he continues as he gets older, a good habit. That was the Moment I knew he was Prepared, Preparedness and vigilance are the keys to our survival.
If we ever forget that Moment in Time, I believe it will be the beginning of the downfall of the greatest nation on earth. That Moment in Time when so many sacrificed for you, for me, for today’s generation and future generations will be a lost moment and thus a lost opportunity to make our nation even greater and stronger. In addition to those that sacrificed at that Moment in Time, there have been thousands of other Moments in Time in which our military personnel and nation’s citizens have sacrificed their lives to allow us to continue to grow strong. May that Moment in Time never be forgotten, and always be remembered, allowing us to continue to grow strong, exercising proper preparedness and letting that Moment in Time be as important as any moment ever in our nation’s history or our nation’s future. That Moment in Time will forever define us, good or bad, it’s our choice, it’s your choice, it is the choice of future generations how we will continue to build strength, it will always be the keystone, the cornerstone and the foundation of our existence, lest our great nation not learn, forget and not continue to build our strength from training, exercises, planning and education, we may go like so many nations throughout history and disintegrate and disappear forever.
I want to thank all of you, my peers, my colleagues, my brothers and sisters for giving me a few moments today to share my thoughts about THAT Moment in Time, that Moment in Time when the world was forever changed and never again be the same. Please never forget, always be vigilant, be prepared, prepare your family, friends, neighbor and community, when your kids come home with a preparedness message, take it seriously. Be a nosy neighbor, and NEVER FORGET THAT MOMENT IN TIME! Thank you for listening!