COD Commemorates 9/11 20th Anniversary with “9/11 20 Years Later: Our Community Remembers”

John Moore, Managing Editor

Photos by Alexia Lukose

College of DuPage commemorated the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks with a live event Saturday morning entitled “9/11 20 Years Later: Our Community Remembers.” Hosted on-campus at the college’s Robert J. Miller Homeland Security Education Center, the ceremony honored the memory of the 2,996 lives lost during the worst attack on U.S. soil since Pearl Harbor.

After a color presentation by the DuPage County Sheriff’s Honor Guard, Tom Brady, associate dean for the Public Services Division and Director of the Homeland Security Training Institute (HSTI), opened the ceremony with brief remarks, then introduced Michael Fagel, a homeland security subject matter expert who joined the college in 2014 to assist with the homeland security training program.

Fagel spent 100 days at Ground Zero and was diagnosed with cancer 10 years ago due to carcinogen exposure during his time there. He thanked students and young first responders in attendance for their service, telling them, “It’s a privilege to serve. Because all of us in this room serve. We are not able to do anything else but serve, and that’s critical.”

After Fagel, Brady reflected on his memories of the day 20 years ago, when he was a member of federal law enforcement. That morning he and his supervisor flew from the Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas area to Oklahoma City, Okla. They were in the air when the first plane struck and found out about the ongoing attacks only after landing. He reflected on how the world changed for everyone after that fateful day, then hosted a moment of silence at 7:46 a.m. to honor the sacrifice of those who lost everything. September 11, 2001 at 7:46 a.m. was when the first plane struck the North Tower of the World Trade Center.

Following Brady was Assistant Fire Chief of the Glen Ellyn Volunteer Fire Company Jim Sisson, who has the distinction of being both a pilot with American Airlines and a fire chief. He was training for his pilot license the morning of 9/11. He mentioned how the country came together so well immediately following the 9/11 attacks, “something I had never seen before, but sadly, have not seen since.”

DuPage County Sheriff James Mendrick, a 24-year law enforcement veteran, spoke next. He recounted the heroism of first responders, and how many died over the ensuing years due to long-term complications from carcinogens and other contaminants in and around Ground Zero. He closed by thanking those in attendance for their courage and service.

The last presentation was from Wendy Parks, COD’s vice president of Public Relations, Marketing and Communications, who announced COD was offering two new scholarships “to two students at College of DuPage who are laser-focused on becoming first responders.” The new scholarships are the first for the college’s HSTI division. Scholarship details have not yet been posted to the college website.

Unbeknownst to many students, COD possesses an iron I-beam from the World Trade Center, which is displayed on campus at the Homeland Security Education Center. COD is the only college in the state in possession of a beam from the towers.

As part of the closing rose ceremony, area first responders and attendees were invited to place white roses on the WTC beam to remember those whose lives were changed and lost that day. In another display of commemoration, 2,996 American flags representing those lost were planted on the north lawn of the Homeland Security Education Center.

Watch the entire presentation here or visit the COD Facebook page.