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Carroll countians, as young as 9, remember those killed in 9/11 when ‘the world just flipped upside down’

Among those gathered at the Carroll County Public Safety Training Center to remember the terrorist attacks from 18 years ago, two people were there for their first 9/11 ceremony — one a 9-year-old girl who just learned about 9/11 the day before, and the other a banker who walked underneath the Twin Towers just 26 minutes before the first plane hit.

Elected officials, firefighters, county staff and members of the public came together Wednesday for a service to remember Sept. 11, 2001. Commissioner Stephen Wantz, R-District 1, in sharing his perspective, pointed out in the crowd Steve Williams, who was in New York City the day of the attack.

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Williams, who now lives in Hunt Valley, started his day on Sept. 11, 2001, by dropping his son off at high school in Jersey City, he said after the ceremony. Williams worked for JPMorgan Chase & Co. and had a meeting in Midtown Manhattan scheduled for 9 a.m., Williams said. He said he took the train in, which traveled into the basement of the World Trade Center.

“I came out of the bottom of the trade center at 20 after 8,” Williams said.

The first plane struck the north tower at 8:46 a.m.

Williams walked to Chase Plaza, about three blocks from the World Trade Center, and got to his meeting early. While chatting with a friend, he noticed debris blowing past them.

“There was a building in the way, but we could see all the stuff blowing,” Williams said.

They went downstairs next to the Federal Reserve Bank and saw a horrific scene.

“You could see the north tower and 20 stories in flames, stuff blowing all over the place,” Williams said.

Then they moved to the other side of the building and watched a second plane strike the south tower, he said.

Williams went upstairs, grabbed his briefcase, called his wife and got on the train that would take him to Jersey City. When the train didn’t move, Williams thought, “This isn’t a good idea,” and walked over to the Hudson River to catch the ferry instead.

After 9/11, Williams said, he only went downtown for meetings. He never wanted to visit the Twin Towers memorial. Williams, who now works for NWSB Bank in Taneytown, said he never attended a remembrance ceremony either, until he saw an article in the newspaper about the upcoming service planned for Wednesday and decided to attend, he said.

Also in the audience was 9-year-old Ryleigh Sutton of Finksburg. She just learned about 9/11 from family friend Kathy O’Bannon, past president of the Carroll County Volunteer Emergency Services Association (CCVESA) auxiliary.

“I was just telling her about it over breakfast,” O’Bannon said.

Ryleigh said she was sad to learn about the thousands of people who died. She said it’s important to have remembrance ceremonies “so people don’t forget about what happened.”

O’Bannon said she plans to take Ryleigh to New York with her father to see the memorial and learn more.

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“The children need to know,” O’Bannon said. “They need to feel it first-hand. They weren’t born until after the fact, but terrorism is lurking everywhere and we just have to always be on our toes and watch and be aware of our surroundings.”

Officials reflect, remember where they were

CCVESA President Don Fair spent most of his life in the fire service, as a volunteer and career firefighter, and knew some of the firefighters who died in 9/11. He is also a volunteer at Lineboro Volunteer Fire Department.

“I got the opportunity to visit many fire departments, and New York City was one of them, and spent many a week visiting fire stations and firefighters and developing friendships up there. So, this piece of steel behind me and that event has a very emotional part of my life," Fair said.

A piece of the Twin Towers from 9/11 is on display outside the training center.

“Some of those guys died in that tower I ate lunch with, I ate supper with, I slept in the dorm with. They were more than friends and brothers. They were family,” Fair said.

Commissioner Ed Rothstein, R-District 5, spoke of his time in the military during 9/11. Back then, he was stationed in Germany.

“I really believe that global war on terrorism continues today and we still need to be vigilant,” Rothstein said.

He recalled walking his daughter to school with armed soldiers all around them. Every airplane that flew overhead felt like a threat, he said.

“All of a sudden, the world just flipped upside down on all of us,” Rothstein said.

Commissioner Stephen Wantz, R-District 1, feels a special connection to the 343 firefighters who died on 9/11.

“For me, the fact that I am one of the many who have run into buildings when everyone else was running out, that terrible number of 343 is forever ingrained in our minds,” Wantz said.

Although the day was tragic, Americans came together in the aftermath to support one another, he said.

“The nation was united. Stores ran out of patriotic displays. Flags were flying everywhere. All of us were Americans, not labeled as Republicans or Democrats,” Wantz said.

The speakers encouraged those gathered to “never forget” and to ensure that the younger generations, especially those born after 9/11, know the story.

At the ceremony, members of Union Bridge Fire Department presented and retired the colors. Deacon Charles Barnhart Jr. offered prayers. Robert McCurdy of the Police Emerald Society of Baltimore, also a volunteer at Pleasant Valley Fire Department, performed on the bagpipes.

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