Where were you on 9/11?
I was 12 years old, a few weeks into seventh grade. I got to my health class and noticed the TV was turned on. The teacher was standing in front of it, his hand at his mouth. Footage of the attacks. The planes crashing. The towers falling.
I remember the bus ride home was silent. As students were dropped off at their stops, their parents rushed out to meet them, cheeks wet.
By most accounts, I was still a child. I was shaken throughout the day – the week, the month, the year – but didn’t comprehend the attacks the same way an adult did.
Now that I’ve grown, I approach the 15th anniversary of 9/11 with a new set of eyes, experiences and emotions.
I now know the story of Stephen Gerald Siller, one of the hundreds of FDNY firefighters who lost his life while saving others on 9/11. He was 34 years old.
Stephen’s family started a foundation to honor his vibrant memory: the Tunnel to Towers Foundation. The organization’s mission is to honor and support first responders and military members through a variety of programs, fundraisers and educational resources. One of these resources is the 9/11 Never Forget Mobile Exhibit.
The 9/11 Never Forget Mobile Exhibit is a traveling museum and memorial. The 1,000-square-foot exhibit, which unfolds from a 53-foot tractor-trailer, features artifacts, videos, radio transmissions and live tours from FDNY firefighters. It visits cities across the country to serve as an educational resource and reminder of 9/11.
July 19-23, this special exhibit will be visiting the Quad Cities. Modern Woodmen of America, a fraternal financial services organization headquartered in downtown Rock Island, is sponsoring the exhibit and offering free public admission. The exhibit will be parked near Modern Woodmen’s national headquarters, beside Schwiebert Riverfront Park in Rock Island.
Why is Modern Woodmen bringing this to the Quad Cities? Because Modern Woodmen is focused on communities – especially its home office hometown – and its employees feel this will be a very powerful, important experience for everyone who visits.
Bringing this exhibit to the Quad Cities is also part of Modern Woodmen’s Be an Everyday Hero project, a summer campaign to honor first responders, military members and others who serve our community every day. As the 15th anniversary of 9/11 approaches, it’s important to step back and thank the people who have protected us and continue to protect us.
Additionally, Modern Woodmen is coordinating a Salute to Heroes march and community event on Sunday, Sept. 11. The march will start in downtown Rock Island, cross the Centennial Bridge and end at Modern Woodmen Park, where there will be a community event with safety demonstrations, hero recognitions and more. Everyone is invited to gather along the march route and join us at the community event.
If you’re interested in learning more about the 9/11 Never Forget Mobile Exhibit, the Salute to Heroes, the Be an Everyday Hero project or Modern Woodmen of America, please visit www.modernwoodmen.org/everydayhero, or follow Modern Woodmen on Facebook.
This guest blog post was written by Michelle Opsahl, Public Relations Specialist, Corporate Communications, at Modern Woodmen of America