The Mount Airy 9/11 Remembrance Ceremony held Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018.
Lt. Curt Snyder, of the Mount Airy Police, will never forget where he was 17 years ago, on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001.
He had finished a late shift with the Baltimore City Police Department and was trying to sleep when he heard his wife say a plane had hit the World Trade Center in New York City.
“At first I thought it was just a low flyer hitting the building,” he said. “But I got downstairs just in time to see the second plane hit and said, ‘Honey, I’ve got to go in to work.’ ”
On Tuesday evening, Snyder played a role in Mount Airy’s ceremony to honor the almost 3,000 people killed in New York, Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania, during the terrorist attacks of 9/11. To never forget those lost, including those from the Mount Airy community: CW4 William Ruth, of the Army Reserve, and Lt. Comm. Ronald Vauk, of the U.S. Naval Reserve, who were both killed in the attack on the Pentagon.
Snyder helped lay a wreath before Vauk’s headstone at Pine Grove Chapel, on Mount Airy’s Main Street.
“The sacrifice that was laid by firefighters and policemen that day hits home,” he said. “It’s great to see the community come out. It’s a great ceremony for the two Mount Airy men that laid down their lives.”
Among the community members that came out were Ann and Ted Nettles, of Mount Airy, who are also members of the Patriot Guard Riders, a group that attends the funerals of fallen soldiers. The two stood with U.S. flags unfurled as a bugle player blew taps.
“It was very moving and very inspirational to see the community come out and all the people participate in it,” Ann said.
“It’s very admirable,” Ted added. “Mount Airy is a nice little town and they have a lot of respect for the military.”
Both the Nettles said they felt it was especially important to ceremonies such as Tuesday’s now that 17 years have passed since the attacks, and young people are coming of age who have no living memory of the event.
“I grew up learning about Pearl Harbor,” said Buddy Sutton, chief of the Laytonsville volunteer fire company. “This is like their Pearl Harbor.”
Sutton came to Mount Airy to speak before the wreath laying ceremony. He talked about his experience going up to New York City to help in the aftermath of the attacks, and what it means for first responders who were involved when they think back on that day.
Sutton was at Ground Zero within 24 hours of the attack, sitting for a moment by himself at Number 1 Liberty Square, when a man came up to ask if he needed anything, and where he was from.
“I told him I’m from Laytonsville, a small community about 30, 40 miles north from D.C. And he says to me, ‘you came all the way from D.C. to help us? Why?’” Sutton said. “No one’s ever asked me why. If I go to a car crash, nobody ever asks me why, or why I go to a house fire. Nobody’s ever asked me why I take thousands of hours of training.”
Sutton said he thought for a moment, and then replied, “Sir, I care about people.”
The man told Sutton that he reminded him of his son, who had wanted nothing more than to be a New York City firefighter when he grew up, and that’s what he was.
“This gentleman says to me, ‘I’m starting to worry now, I haven’t talked to my son in three days. I have a pretty good idea where he is — he’s in that pile of debris behind me,’” Sutton said.
As the man walked away, Sutton stood to say, “Sir, I’m sorry.”
“He shook my hand and said, ‘Son, you’re still bringing them out alive, right?’ And I said, yes sir, I have witnessed a miracle,’” Sutton said. “He said, ‘Don’t ever give up hope and don’t ever stop caring about people.’”