NEW YORK (WSYR-TV) — On September 11, 2001, the unthinkable happened. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the national tragedy, and for so many New York neighbors, the memories come back vividly.
“I knew something was clearly wrong. I quickly called my counterpart chief of staff in the White House, and they were scrambling for ‘what does this mean?’ ‘what should we do?’,” said Bill Smullen, former Chief of Staff for Secretary of State Colin Powell in an interview with NewsChannel 9.
People from all walks of life were rocked by the horrifying event, including former fighter pilot Colonel Tony Basile.
“With not a cloud in the sky and both of us being pilots, wondering how could that happen? Then we saw the second aircraft hit the building, the other building,” Basile explained.
Reporter Melinda Murphy shared her memories of that morning and what she saw unfold from the airspace over New York City with NewsChannel 9’s Bridge Street, after all planes were grounded with the exception of one helicopter.
The thousands that lost their lives that day included fathers, mothers, friends, and colleagues. John and Tommy Palombo lost their father, firefighter Frank Palombo, who was one of seven members of Engine Company 219, Ladder Company 105 who died that day.
In this way, the ripple effects of those senseless attacks have been felt for generations.
Among those who lost their lives were 40 brave passengers and crew on another hijacked plane, that crashed into a Pennsylvania field after passengers fought back and prevented the aircraft from striking the U.S. Capitol building. Gordon Felt’s brother, Ed Felt, was one of those heroes.
“..we’ve always said that our loved ones weren’t victims, they were heroes. They fought back and although they lost their lives that morning, there’s no question that they made one of the darkest days in our history, less dark,” Gordon said.
According to Gordon, the FBI believes that Ed was trying to help establish where the plane was to 9-1-1 dispatchers and where it was heading before the plane crashed.
The grief that followed September 11 was profound. The emotional toll was felt by Joe Colon, the current managing chaplain of St Joseph’s Hospital and former NYPD detective who at the time was tasked with assessing the emotional status of rescuers looking for victims and digging through rubble.
“When you survive something like 9/11, you really start thinking about why you’re on the planet and why did God save me, and you start thinking ‘what’s next?’,” Colon said.
These stories and so many others shaped the course of the United States, a country that is now committed to never forget the events of that fateful day.
Locally, there were many ceremonies on Saturday, September 11 to remember. In Oswego, there was a whole day of events to commemorate the tragedy, and the Syracuse University Chapel hosted a memorial service.
Members of the Syracuse Fire Department and Syracuse Police Department honored their fallen comrades and 9/11 first responders with a ceremony in Downtown Syracuse. Retired New York City Fire Lieutenant who now calls Manlius home, David Fullam, played “Amazing Grace” on the bagpipes at Saturday’s remembrance ceremony.