Eleven years ago on this fateful day of September 11, our confidence as a nation was ripped away, and every year since then, the horror of it all replays and our wounds are reopened. Here, we remember some of the unsung heroes who stood on the front lines.
1) The stories of 12 African-American firefighters (top from L to R: Leon W. Smith Jr., Shawn E. Powell, Vernon Cherry, Andre Fletcher, and Ronnie L Henderson; and bottom from L to R: Gerard Jean Baptiste, Keithroy Maynard, William L. Henry Jr., Karl Joseph, and Tarel Coleman. Not pictured are Keith Glascoe and Vernon Richard) who gave their lives at the World Trade site to save others on 9/11 have gone largely untold. Craig Kelly, a former firefighter and a grief counselor who worked with the fallen heroes’ families, felt compelled to chronicle the aftermath of their deaths and put his research in to a documentary, ”All Our Sons–Fallen Heroes of 9/11,” which was released in 2004. The tribute memorializes the lives of the men and what they meant to their communities.
Watch the trailer here.
2) U.S. Marine Jason Thomas (pictured left), 32, appeared at the World Trade Center with a flashlight and a shovel and made the decision to help as many people as he could.
He ended up unearthing a pair of police officers who had been buried beneath 20 feet of debris, then disappeared.
No one knew of his identity until he was finally unmasked four years later.
Ironically, Thomas was portrayed in the 2006 film “World Trade” as a White man.
The filmmakers later apologized for their inaccuracy, but Thomas just laughed it off by saying that he didn’t want to “shed any negativity on what they were trying to show.”
3) Just way too young to understand the evils of the world, three bright lights were permanently dimmed on 9/11: Asia Cottom (pictured above), Rodney Dickens (pictured in red shirt), and Bernard Curtis Brown II (pictured in white) — all age 11 — were on Flight 77 when it crashed in to the Pentagon. The precocious youths had been hand picked to represent three middle schools in the Washington, D.C., area, so they could travel to the Channel Island National Marine Sanctuary near Santa Barbara, Calif., to participate in a National Geographic Society research project called “Sustainable Seas Expedition.” The children were accompanied by a teacher and two National Geographic representatives. Sadly, all of the passengers on that fateful flight would die. The children and their chaperones’ memories were honored when the then-mayor of Washington, D.C. — in conjunction with the D.C. public schools, the Department of Parks and Recreation, the National Geographic Society, the Anacostia Watershed Society, and the Earth Conservation Corp. — turned the islands of Kingman and Heritage into sanctuaries.
4) LeRoy Homer, Jr. (pictured above) grew up in Long Island and always dreamed of becoming a pilot, so when he joined United Airlines in 1995, his dream was realized. On September 11, 2001, Homer, 36, was assigned to Flight 93 from Newark, N.J., to San Francisco. Four al-Qaeda terrorists hijacked his plane, and after learning about the other crashes at WTC and the Pentagon, Homer — along with some of his crew and a few passengers — organized a take-over. During the struggle with the terrorists, though, the plane crashed in a field near Shanksville, Pa., and Homer, a hero indeed, was gone way too soon.
5) Chief Technician in the gross anatomy lab at the City College of New York and scientist Darryl Warner (pictured above) is a special hero with a unique job: He is this country’s only African-American diener, making him responsible for locating donor bodies to be utilized by students. When 9/11 took place, Warner did not think of himself or his health but gave thought to the thousands of victims who fell at the hands of terrorists and needed to be identified and brought back home to their loved ones. Therefore, Warner traveled every day to Ground Zero to volunteer and help identify the remains of the deceased for the N.Y.C. Medical Examiner’s Office. Warner is truly the epitome of a hero who has continued to dedicate his life to science.
Watch Warner at work here: