A mobile exhibit at the fair is giving area residents a chance to learn and reflect on the legacy of 9/11
MARSHALL — The terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, had an impact on people all across the U.S. And in traveling and meeting people from around the country, personnel and guides for the 9/11 Never Forget exhibit said they’ve seen that impact firsthand.
“Everyone has their own story, and that’s the amazing thing, to me,” said Ed Breen. Breen, a retired battalion chief with the New York City Fire Department, was serving as a guide at the Never Forget mobile exhibit, which opened Friday at the Lyon County fairgrounds.
By Friday afternoon, a steady stream of people was moving through the exhibit, which includes artifacts from the World Trade Center, multimedia displays and accounts of the 9/11 attacks. Both Breen and New York City Fire Department Battalion Chief John Martorana were present to talk about the exhibit, as well as the mission of the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation.
The foundation, named for a New York firefighter who lost his life on 9/11, runs programs that help first responders and military service members, Martorana said. One program, Building for America’s Bravest, builds custom “smart homes” for disabled service members.
Martorana and Breen were also able to bring their own perspectives to the traveling exhibit. Breen was among the firefighters who responded after the terror attacks at the World Trade Center on 9/11.
“By the time we got there, the buildings were down,” Breen said. “I remember the swarms of people evacuating,” he said.
Even after getting to the scene and working to dig through the rubble at Ground Zero, Breen said, it took a while for the scope of the rescue and recovery efforts to sink in. At first, he said, “We didn’t have the big picture of what we were doing.”
It was going to take some large equipment to move the debris. However, as recovery efforts went on, emergency responders had a lot of great help from construction and trades workers, Breen said.
The World Trade Center attacks had a huge impact on New York City firefighters, police and other responders. A total of 343 firefighters were killed, and 176 responding firefighters have died since then, said Bill Puckett. Puckett drove the mobile exhibit into Marshall on Thursday.
Many of the people visiting the exhibit Friday at the fair said it brought up their own memories of 9/11. Others were taking the opportunity to teach their children about the events of that day, and what it meant for the country. Like Breen described, their stories were all different.
Wilson Ebner said she was in first grade when the 9/11 attacks happened.
“I was in school. I wasn’t supposed to find out about it,” Ebner said, but a visit to the school office changed that. “I ended up seeing it on the office TV.”
“It’s heartbreaking, in a way, that we had to go through that as a country,” Ebner said. But she and fellow exhibit visitor Brenna Giddings said they were glad to see the American pride and the resilience people showed after the attacks.
In talking with visitors at the mobile exhibit, Martorana said he’s heard how people all across the country have been affected by 9/11.
“It’s not just a New York thing,” he said. “It’s a United States thing.”
“The response we’ve gotten throughout the country has been amazing,” Breen said of working with the mobile exhibit. “It’s a honor for us to be here.”
The 9/11 Never Forget mobile exhibit will be at the fair today and Sunday.