People throughout McHenry County remembered the 9/11 attacks and honored military personnel, first responders and victims who were involved Tuesday.
The day marked the 17th anniversary of the coordinated terrorist attacks that stretched from New York City to Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C., and killed almost 3,000 people. Those fatalities included hundreds of first responders.
“The events of Sept. 11, 2001, forever changed our world,” McHenry Mayor Wayne Jett said Tuesday morning at the city’s annual remembrance ceremony. “It has shaped who we are, how we live our daily lives and what we believe in. Our way of life was attacked on that day; however, the United States of America remains one of most desirable places on this planet to live, not just for our oceans and plains, our mountains and rivers, our cars, homes and technology, but for our freedom.”
Thousands of first responders and civilians continue to suffer in the aftermath, afflicted with breathing and digestive disorders, mental health maladies and other disabilities caused by injury and exposure to toxic materials at Ground Zero.
“[First responders] worked for days, weeks, months in the worst of conditions,” McHenry Police Chief John Birk said. “Far from the forefront of their minds was the price they would pay and the risks they would take. As the months and years passed, the payments for these heroes came in the form of deadly illnesses that took their lives early.”
McHenry High School choir students performed at the ceremony Tuesday, and other districts throughout the county also work to teach students about the importance of Sept. 11.
“As time passes, our schoolkids don’t have [direct] recollection,” said Carl Vallianatos, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction in McHenry High School District 156. “But it is important that we honor it in some way. [9/11] is the Pearl Harbor of this generation. It’s an event that for 40, 50 years we are going to look back on with solemn reverence.”
The events have hit the modern America section of some local school district history books. Northwood Middle School history teacher Jason Laidig said he also educates students using media reports from that day, community sources and museum visits during Woodstock School District 200’s annual Washington, D.C., field trip.
Whether the historic events resonate with students is a mixed bag, Laidig said.
“I’d say it’s 50-50,” he said. “There are some students who are very passionate about it, and there are kids who say, ‘Whoa, this really happened?’ when I hold up the front page, and it really hits home.”