Remembering 20 years since 9/11

For those of us old enough to remember, it’s a day frozen in time. September 11, 2001.
It’s one of those days that leaves a mark on your soul. You remember what you were doing, where you were and who you were with at the time the news broke that our country was under attack. For all of us, the day was marked with fear, shock and sadness and forever changed the way we view the world.

It’s now been 20 years since terrorists overtook four commercial flights, crashing the planes in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Two decades have passed since 2,977 innocent people lost their lives that day, yet the memories of that day never get easier. On that day we held our collective breath, worrying, wondering what would happen next.

And yet, in the midst of the tragedy, there was still a spark of the American spirit. That spark grew into a flickering flame and soon a raging fire as our country came together to heal, to hope and to move forward in the face of tragedy. When the chips were stacked against us, Americans across the nation came together with resolve and hope for our future. In the days, weeks and months that followed, we were one people: Americans. And we did what Americans do: we helped each other.

In the heartbreaking video footage of the chaos in New York City, we saw the terrified faces of people running away from the rubble – running for their lives, hoping to see their family and friends again. And we saw the brave faces of the first responders, those remarkable men and women who ran toward the collapsing buildings; those who knew the risk and went anyway. Among the 2,977 people who died that day were 441 New York City first responders. They died doing their job, but so much more. They died for the cause of helping others – they died heroes and our country remains indebted to them.

A popular quote from Mister Rogers reminds people in time of crisis to “look for the helpers” – the people who run toward tragedy to aid others. When I see the videos of the police officers, firefighters, paramedics and medical professionals who answered the call on 9/11, I think of the students I see here at Lorain County Community College in our first responder and health care programs, as well as the LCCC alumni who now serve our local communities. LCCC is the number one location in Lorain County for first responder training, and it’s a responsibility we take seriously. The students in classes this year are working toward their goal helping others, even when it may not be easy or convenient for them. The legacy of those lost on 9/11 lives on with those working and training in these vital fields.

As I remember that awful day and the week and months that followed the attacks, I’m reminded of the many other helpers who emerged during that time to help our nation cope. I think of the teachers and educators who comforted their students during a time when we all were grappling to understand the unfolding events. This also includes counselors, social workers and all those who make it their life’s work to improve life for others. These continue to be much needed roles in our community, and LCCC will continue to fulfill our mission by delivering the highest quality education that leads to well-prepared professionals that lift us all up.

Even with the passage of 20 years the memories of that day remain painful. There were many things the terrorists robbed us of in an instant. However, they were unable to take from us the basic qualities that make us Americans: resolve, resiliency and hope for a better future. As we face new challenges, I know our country will continue to grow and become better; just as we did in the days and months following 9/11. And I know our local communities are in good hands with the first responders, teachers, counselors and more who now stand ready to help us all, whatever each day may bring.

Lorain County Community College held a 9/11 remembrance event on Sept. 10, which included the unveiling of a Remembrance Display. The display includes blue flags in the shape of a star to represent the 2,977 people who tragically lost their lives on Sept. 11, 2001. At the center of the star are four lights, representing each of the four planes. Using augmented reality on smart devices, visitors of the display can project a semi-translucent image of the Twin Towers, which appear to rise more than 50 feet above the ground.

Translucence Twin Towers rise above a field with grass and blue flags
Augmented reality projects the image of the Twin Towers above the LCCC 9/11 Remembrance Display.
Blue flags in the foreground, Dr. Ballinger in red at podium, large american flag on building
9/11 Remembrance Display, from the ground
Aerial shot of flags arranged in a star
Aerial view of the 9/11 Remembrance Display
Police officers at 9/11 memorial event
Members of the Elyria Police Department
Dr. Ballinger speaks, wearing a red blazer, with American flag in background
I was honored to address the campus and community on this solemn occasion.