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Carrboro Town News

Posted on: September 10, 2021

Carrboro Public Safety Leaders Reflect on 9/11

911Memorial

The National September 11 Memorial & Museum will mark the passage of two decades since 9/11 terrorist attacks. A livestream program will be aired on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/911memorial starting at 8:40 a.m. (ET) on Saturday, Sept. 11. The focus of the national commemoration will be the reading of the names by family members in-person. Throughout the ceremony, there will be six moments of silence, acknowledging when each of the World Trade Center towers was struck and fell and the times corresponding to the attack on the Pentagon and the crash of Flight 93.

Carrboro public safety leaders Fire Chief Dave Schmidt and Police Chief Chris Atack offer the following reflections on this 20th anniversary of 9/11: 

ChiefSchmidt_webCarrboro Fire Chief Dave Schmidt

" As I stop and look back 20 years ago at the events of September 11th, I am immediately taken back to the scenes that were broadcast around the world. While some of the sights and sounds of that day may have faded from our memories; but we will always remember the Towers being struck by the planes and the horrific images of flames, smoke and debris raining down from the buildings.  

We remember the images of the attack on the Pentagon and the crash of United Flight 93.   We remember the sounds of sirens as first responders (police, fire and EMS) rushed forth to rescue those in need.  

We remember the heroic rescue attempts in the ensuing days and months in New York and Virginia and we have all probably heard stories of tragedy and triumph which will stay with us forever.  

And so, it is fitting that we gather together every year across this country to remember the good and the bad of that day and share our personal experiences and feelings.  

Additionally, I also think back the weeks after the attacks and the stories of the aftermath, the families, and funerals. The fire service is filled with traditions.  One such tradition is how we pay homage to a firefighter who has paid the ultimate sacrifice and given his or her life in the line of duty.  When a Line of Duty Death occurs, firefighters from around the country, sometimes around the world travel to the funeral pay their respects and participate in the funeral service.  

Searching for ways to help or contribute, I took nine Firefighters to New York to attend funerals and provide support for the families.  We drove straight through the night and arrived in the early morning.  Immediately upon arriving we donned our dress uniforms and set out to begin attending funerals.  For three days we traveled to all five boroughs of New York and attended seven different firefighter funerals and paid our respects to the families of the fallen.  We also wanted them to know their sons or fathers did not die in vain.  

In our travels we stopped at many of the fire stations to pay our respects.  We were also able to visit Ground Zero to speak to the rescuers and pay our respects to them as well.  The “rescuers” now included steel workers, heavy equipment operators and other members of literally every construction trade.  By all accounts, this had turned into a community effort.  It was truly overwhelming to be standing there looking at the gaping chasm where two 100 story buildings used to stand.  

One of the most impactful things that I took away from the trip was the tenacity of the citizens and their determination to get through the tragedy.  It was as though they wanted to be defined by their determination and resilience, and not fear.  In a small measure, I believe going out to attend those funerals reinforced their resilience and gave them support during a vulnerable time." 

-----------------------------------------------

Chief Atack-4771webCarrboro Police Chief Chris Atack

"When I was 11 my family visited the World Trade Center.  I remember looking up from the street in front of the towers.  I remember being intrigued, and a bit worried, with how quickly the elevators moved.  But most of all I remember standing against the glass of the indoor observation deck and looking down at the street below.  As I relive that moment now, I can still see how small the cars and even the buses looked from that height.

Fast forward to Monday, September 10, 2001.  I took that week off so that I could have some time to transition from being a Patrol Officer to being a School Resource Officer at McDougle Middle School. A good friend and I had ridden our motorcycles to Washington, D.C. to visit the National Law Enforcement Memorial.  We awoke on the morning of the 11th with plans to attend a baseball game that evening. Our plans quickly changed.  Our baseball game was canceled (as most events would be for a time after), and we hunkered down at our friend’s place in Laurel, Maryland, to see what would happen in the days that followed.  We ventured into Washington on the morning of the 13th and visited the memorial.  The city was not as I had ever seen it before or since.  For one thing, there was no traffic.  That alone will tell you that something was different.  There were HUMVEES parked on corners and soldiers in uniform in various places.  The city was quiet.

As I think about the events of 9/11 and the time that has passed, I have reflected on a few things.  I remember people stopping me in the community afterward and thanking me for my service.  I remember discussions about what should be done and how we should respond.  I remember the personal sacrifice and selfless acts of first responders and citizens alike to do something, anything, during and after those events.  I remember how united we all felt.  

I use the events of 9/11 and the actions taken after it as a touchstone as I think about my job as Police Chief here in Carrboro.  9/11 reminds me that solutions to difficult problems are not simple or easy. Countering aggression and harm with aggression and harm may serve in the short-term, but long-term, lasting fixes require a more reasoned and holistic approach. I recognize the importance of public service and am reminded that good people can provide great service while working in a flawed system. I am tasked to work toward solutions and to always be open to better solutions.  Progress is exactly that, progression towards better.  It is a constant state of improvement.  It is a growth mindset and a restlessness to do better.  We are all in this together, and I am grateful for the people I work with, the community members who support us and push us to constantly improve, our public safety partners, and the myriad of people we interact with each day as we all navigate this journey and try to make sense and bring calm to the situations we find ourselves in."

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