NEW PALTZ– Ten years ago, on the morning of Sept. 11, the United States fell victim to a series of terrorist attacks that killed and injured thousands. However, this number could have been far greater if it weren’t for the heroic men and women who arrived on the scene to help rescue survivors and clean up the damage.
On Friday, Sept. 9, SUNY New Paltz honored these courageous firefighters, police officers and civilians by holding a flag-planting ceremony on the Old Main Quad.
Members of the school’s faculty, students and the public were invited to show support for those affected by the tragedies of 9/11 by planting American flags into two designated patches of grass, designed to resemble the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. The New Paltz Fire Department, Police Department and the New Paltz Rescue Squad all participated in the ceremony.
The ceremony began at noon. SUNY New Paltz President Donald P. Christian presided over the event, introducing the three guest speakers.
“We all went through the same thing, whether you’re a first responder, a uniformed service [worker] or a civilian,” said Chief Kevin McGuire of the New Paltz Fire Department, and the first speaker at the ceremony. “Whether you were in the city, or here in this community; everybody went through the same grieving process.”
Chief McGuire remembers the initial shock he felt that morning. “We weren’t aware that people were out there, wanting to do us harm,” he said. “Well, we’re aware now, and with the increased threats for this weekend I can assure you one thing. When and if it happens again, small or large, first responders will be there.” He then went on to plead to the crowd to continue the patriotism, that of the days after the attacks, out of respect for the first responders.
“It may be years before we fully understand the physical and psychological damages done to the thousands of people who risked their lives that day,” said James Halpern, professor of psychology and director of the Institute for Disaster Mental Health.
Halpern, who offered mental health first aid at Ground Zero days after Sept. 11, also discussed how hope can aid in the healing process for those who lost loved ones, and in some cases improve their own health.
“For some people hope is the belief that our actions will bring about a better future. There is nothing more healing than promoting positive and supportive connections: connecting children with parents, neighbors with neighbors and providing social support which increases the chances of long-term recovery. In difficult times we need to help each other to find that calm, that safety, that hope.”
Rev. Tobias Anderson of Redeemer Evangelical Lutheran Church in New Paltz, led the crowd in a moment of silence and a prayer. The event concluded with members of the first response team planting their flags in the ground, followed by the public.