Ten years ago this week, the United States embarked on a startling inquisition into the depths of compassion and the boundaries — or more fittingly, the lack thereof — of barbarism. When terrorists struck the World Trade Center in New York City, the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and a plane that crash-landed in Pennsylvania, Americans bore witness — on live television, and on radio stations — to the worst terrorist attack in the 200-plus year history of the United States.
And lakes area officials were affected, as well, having to react to an uncertain situation, not knowing what the minutes, hours, and days ahead of them held.
What follows is snapshot of what happened a decade ago from the perspective of local officials, as well as a run-down of the ceremonies and events taking place in the lakes area to commemorate and remember the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001.
Beautiful day turns into disbelief and tears
The beauty of the day is what Highland Township Supervisor Triscia Pilchowski remembers most about Sept. 11, 2001.
“The sky was so clear and blue. It was just such a gorgeous, beautiful day. It was so incongruent with what happened,” she said.
Oakland County Sheriff’s Department (OCSD) Commerce Township Substation Lieutenant Clay Jansson was taking advantage of the beautiful weather conditions by playing golf with his father-in-law when he heard about the attacks.
“We learned about it because the golf club had sent someone to tell the golfers what occurred in New York. When we got back to the club house, we just sat in amazement and disbelief watching the TV with everyone else,” he recalled.
One common occurrence that day was people surrounding televisions in offices.
“When I could finally get to a TV, I watched the first tower go down. It was the first unbelievable act of terrorism I had ever seen in my life,” said Commerce Township Supervisor Tom Zoner.
Lieutenant David Pement of the OCSD Highland Township Substation said he was working in the training unit at the Oakland County Sheriff’s Department office.
“I had heard something about a plane hitting the first tower and thought that it was like a plane hit the Empire State Building — that it was a fluke thing,” he said. “I thought maybe pilot error had led to a horrible accident, at least until I turned on the TV and saw the second plane hit. At that point, I knew it wasn’t an accident.”
Current White Lake Township Police Chief Ed Harris was discussing an issue with former White Lake Police Chief Ron Stephens when they heard of the attacks.
“I just remember being in a state of shock watching the TV coverage,” Harris said. “I remember quite vividly dealing with an issue at the police department, and then Chief Stephens trying to make contact with his daughter, who lived a block away from the (Twin) Towers. She had to flee the area on foot with the crowd. He was finally able to determine she was OK. We were just in a state of disbelief. Once the second plane hit, we knew it hadn’t been an accident. An attack on the country was definitely unfolding.”
Pilchowski — who was the township supervisor’s assistant at the time — had been in her car getting ready to pick up the White Lake supervisor’s assistant to attend a Community Development Block Grant (CBGB) application workshop when she heard the news on the radio.
“They were talking about something going on and, for whatever reason, I knew we were under attack,” she said. “By the time I got to White Lake, everybody was watching the TV in shock. We carried on to the meeting, and I pretty much cried through the whole thing. Driving back, I felt like the world had changed in those few hours. It was a very unsettling time.”
Most people spent the day wondering what was coming next and watching live TV coverage.
“I remember all the instant coverage of what was going on,” Pement said. “We didn’t have that years and years ago. Everybody was just glued to the TV set.”
Lessons learned in the face of national tragedy
The attacks on 9/11 changed the world we live in and as such has taught many lessons.
“I know that it brought home (the idea) that there are people out there who do not believe in the American way of life,” Pilchowski said. “We learned that we have to protect what we believe in and have to be supportive of all those nations that want to be free. And that more than ever, whether we agree with each other or not, we have to be respectful of each other’s beliefs. The privilege of living in this country is that you have the freedom to believe what you believe.”
“Personally, I’ve learned to always be prepared for the unexpected. Doesn’t mean it will happen, but I’m looking for it,” Zoner said. “As a nation, we learned that we are truly, truly good people. All those diving in and trying to preserve life there, and the donations that poured in — unbelievable.”
Many people have tried to be more vigilant after the attacks.
“Just knowing that we as a country or as a community are not free from internal or external terrorist attacks, that it could happen any day — but you don’t dwell on that as a professional,” Jansson said. “The biggest thing as a professional is to have a more heightened awareness and increased training.”
“We always have to be vigilant in looking for signs that people are trying to gather information to use against us for use in plans to attack us,” Harris added.
“I learned to be more vigilant,” Pement said. “Any time I go out of town on an airplane, I’m always more cautious or aware of who’s around me or what they are carrying. If it’s anything suspicious, I bring it to the attention of the authorities.”
While many agree that the attacks brought us closer together as a nation, people believe it’s also important to always remember.
“This is just like our parents’ and grandparents’ Pearl Harbor,” Pement said. “And just like Pearl Harbor, we need to remember what happened that day and not forget.”
Carrying on despite shock and spreading fear
Many West Bloomfield Township public safety officials — past and present — vividly recall where they were on that fateful September day.
Current West Bloomfield Police Chief Michael Patton was a lieutenant in the Patrol Division at the time of the attacks and was attending firearms training at the Pontiac Lake Recreation Area.
“We were out there and we had no idea what was going on,” he said. “We were out there at 8 a.m. By mid-morning, one of the command officers had received a message back from the station that some significant events were going on in areas of Washington D.C. and New York. We didn’t have any access except for the radios in our personal patrol cars, so we tuned it. We still didn’t know how big it was; we still had to go on with our training.
“We accelerated the training that day and we were so anxious to get out of there and get on with our regular jobs because we knew there would be needs for us to be of service to the community,” Patton said.
Former West Bloomfield Fire Chief James Poppelreiter said he was at work in his office when he started hearing about the attacks, and he checked the television.
“It was just a total shock,” he said. “I was in disbelief that someone could do something like that and have such an adverse effect on so many. It just seemed horrible.”
Current West Bloomfield Fire Chief Jay Wiseman, who was a captain at the time, also said he was glued to the TV during the events that were unfolding 10 years ago this week.
“It really makes you reflect about how vulnerable we actually all are,” he said. “Things can happen in the blink of an eye, but as far as how the fire service responds to these types of incidents, we will still be going in as others are coming out. That’s our job.”
Patton said he and his fellow officers came back to the station after training, put on their uniforms and went back on the road because people were calling in. They were nervous.
“We have a number of critical incident sites around our township, like the Jewish Community Center or our schools and shopping centers, and of course when these attacks are under way, you don’t know if it’s the beginning or the end,” Patton said.
“We knew that people would be nervous and there would be fear because there was so much uncertainty about what was going on,” he said. “It was one thing after another. Everyone was at a heightened state of alert, so we immediately deployed all of our assets and started talking with all of our security partners. We just started opening up the floodgates of communication with everybody and everything that we were responsible for and worked with.”
Poppelreiter said the fire department already had plans in place and that it sent out notices to township officials regarding the receipt of packages that may have been contaminated.
“We made it be known that people should be more aware of what was coming in and if there was something showing up somewhere, someplace, that wasn’t ordered or didn’t look right, to not get involved with it and to notify the authorities and let people deal with what we’re trained to deal with,” he said. “We sent that to all the departments in the township.”
Wiseman said that it was also up to the fire department to remain calm during the ordeal.
“There’s some different avenues of service that the fire service uses to share information. We were watching some things unfold (saying) that they’re requesting that emergency responders don’t just come to New York, there was going to be a planned response to this particular event,” Wiseman said.
“We just kind of followed that information to see if there was any particular part we could play, that any one of us could play,” he said. “You feel helpless. Everyone in this line of work feels like they just want to go help — that’s what we do. But we also know that you don’t just go and help (because) that can add to the problem. There is command and control and there are operational plans that are in place. They know that we need to be summoned and go through the right process.”
In the days following the 9/11 attacks, a number of West Bloomfield police officers immediately volunteered to drive east to New York to assist in the recovery efforts, according to Patton.
Wiseman added that West Bloomfield firefighters held a fund-raising effort, selling T-shirts that brought in money that was shared with various groups in New York.
“Our accountability systems and our communication systems have been strengthened since that time. Tracking of your personnel has to be (done) very closely,” Wiseman said. “The same underlying passion to care for others and deliver our services is just as strong today — if not stronger — than 10 years ago.”
Poppelreiter said that the visions of 9/11 are still present in his mind and that he is still somewhat in disbelief to this day.
“I don’t know if I’ll ever totally forget it,” he said. “I guess it makes you even a little more fatalistic in the fact that, hey, if it’s your time, regardless of where you’re at and what you are doing, if your number comes up, it’s going to come up. You’re never totally safe.”
According to Patton, the 10th anniversary of 9/11 should be a reminder to people to remain vigilant.
“One of the things I caution people (against) is that they sit back and think, ‘That was 10 years ago. It couldn’t happen again.’ But it could. There’s a motto — if you see something, say something,” Patton said. “We encourage all of our citizens to be more vigilant because we still are a nation at war and … all of our citizens are our best eyes and ears to be out there. Your public safety officers can’t be at every place and see every thing, but citizens are all around.”
Patton added that he doesn’t want people to live in fear or be paranoid, but that people should be alert for things that are out of place.
“If you work in a store or an industry where people would buy things that, if they were compiled correctly, they could be made into a harmful explosive device, say something. Just don’t sit back and think that guy is ordering a lot of fertilizer like it’s normal, say something,” he said. “Don’t become complacent because if we let our guard down, we could be opening ourselves up to an opportunity. We need to deny people who seek to harm us the most the opportunities (to do so). We may not be able to prevent everything, but we can minimize and make them go somewhere else and keep them in check.”
Local response and changes in safety procedures
Milford Township and Milford Village officials were in different places at the time of the 9/11 attacks, but they had the same reaction.
Village Manager Arthur Shufflebarger said that he was driving to a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) application workshop when he heard the events unfolding on the radio.
“I was just shocked to hear what I was hearing, waiting for the announcement that this was sort of a 1950s Mars invasion or something, that this was some sort of theatrical event or presentation or something, but it was, in fact, real,” he said.
Despite what was happening around the country, Shufflebarger said the CDBG meeting still went on as scheduled.
“Surprisingly, people weren’t talking about it. They had heard about and knew about it and we just kind of sat through the meeting, conducted business and did what we had to do,” he said. “There wasn’t really a lot of discussion about it.”
Shufflebarger added that as soon as he got back to the office, he watched the TV coverage of the unfolding news.
“I discussed with the police chief if there were sensitive areas that we needed to be aware of and police officers were in the field and employees were aware and there was a heightened level of awareness,” Shufflebarger said.
Milford Township Supervisor Don Green said he was in Washington D.C. a week prior to 9/11 for a conference held by the National Association of Towns and Townships.
“At first I didn’t believe it until I saw it,” he said. “Everyone was devastated. The office was really devastated by it with just shock and disbelief that someone could do it. “We posted the alerts, orange, yellow and red, when they were changed. We secured more buildings where there was open access and I’m sure things have relaxed since (that) day. The main doors are open on the fire station now, but they were once closed.
“Here in the township offices, we have the doors locked during the day,” he said. “There’s only one way in and out during normal business hours. Before that, I even had an alarm system put in with a strobe light and a microphone if there were any issues in the township office.”
Milford Police Chief Tom Callahan was a lieutenant at the time of the 9/11 attacks.
“We just went to a television set and pretty much watched in disbelief,” he said. “You know what you’re seeing, but it just doesn’t quite seem real. It was just hard to believe that something like this could occur.
“All the airline travel was shut down,” Callahan said. “I don’t think there was anything that we particularly did … But, of course, you heightened your senses to anything because no one ever thought that would be possible.”
He added that since 9/11, the department’s communications with agencies throughout Oakland County has improved.
“Our police radio system is now capable of communicating with agencies throughout the county and we have ways of communicating with agencies outside the county,” Callahan said.
Like West Bloomfield public safety officials, Callahan also encouraged citizens to be vigilant and not take anything for granted.
“It’s a lot less probable that something would occur in an area of west Oakland County as opposed to in a major city, but anything is possible when you learn about some of the people that learned how to fly and some of the areas that they were in and lived for a period of time and went unnoticed,” Callahan said. “You start to wonder how this could have happened.”
Schools instituted lockdowns, passed out flags
Dr. JoAnn Andrees, West Bloomfield Schools’ superintendent, said that on 9/11, she was in a meeting of all the district’s principals and administration at the district’s administration building, and that Dr. Seymour Gretchko, the district’s superintendent at the time, happened to see a TV that was on in a hallway showing the plane wreckage. He commented that someone must have blown up a building somewhere.
“When they realized what had occurred, Dr. Gretchko’s first concern was for his daughter, who worked in an office near the Twin Towers,” Andrees said. “His second concern was for our students, and he immediately released all of the principals from the meeting to return to their buildings. As we have many students from many different countries — including the Middle Eastern countries — there was much concern, and students were released to their parents who came to pick them up. Students were brought into the auditoriums and classrooms with TVs so that they could monitor the situation as it unfolded.”
Andrees added that there was a lot of work to be done afterwards to help console and heal a community comprised of a very diverse population. She also said that the parents and community all rallied to help the school district turn a negative into a positive, as they focused on non-discrimination, culture, and combating prejudice and stereotypes.
“One parent brought American flags to give to all the students at West Bloomfield High School, searching all over town to obtain enough to distribute,” Andrees said. “She remembers how proud the students from other countries were to receive and display their American flags. We all supported each other, as we helped to make the students feel safe and comfortable.”
Joey Spano, director of community education for the West Bloomfield district, said she had stopped at one of the elementary school buildings and that she was driving back to the district’s central office when she heard early reports of the attacks on the radio.
“Just as I was driving into the building, the report got a little more factual, saying this is a large plane that may have hit a building,” she said. “They didn’t say what building. As soon as I got in we turned the TV on immediately, and of course it was a large commercial plane that had hit the World Trade Center.
“Gary Faber was the deputy superintendent at the time and I ran up into his office and he had the TV on, as well,” she added. “I can just remember we both sat there in total silence and disbelief for at least 20 minutes. We couldn’t even verbalize a word. We immediately had a lockdown in terms of all the exterior doors of the buildings. We were in contact with the police and were advised to take every safety precaution.”
In the days following the attacks, the district worked with a firm that came in and conducted a safety analysis on district buildings and made a number of recommendations, according to Spano.
“All the doors in every school building are numbered and we had to go through some practices in terms of emergency evacuation. We all practiced lockdown,” she said. “We trained our staff. We had emergency procedures listed in every one of the classrooms. We have emergency backpacks with flashlights and different things that we may need in the case of an emergency.”
Spano added that she thinks the West Bloomfield community and its school district are both a model for the world as to how people can be tolerant of one another and try to understand differences of opinion or lifestyles.
“I think that’s really something West Bloomfield can be proud of,” she said. “There are a lot of communities that you go into that you just don’t have that same sense of understanding and acceptance of religious beliefs, lifestyle, cultural differences, nationalities, and ethnicity. There’s always room for improvement, but I think we should be seen as a model community in that regard.”
Rhonda Lessel, School and Community Services Specialist for the Waterford School District, said she was in her office when she first learned that a plane had crashed into one of the towers at the World Trade Center site.
“We always have a TV in our office tuned to the news channels, and one of my staff members said that a plane had hit the World Trade Center,” Lessel said. “At first I didn’t believe it. I thought, ‘How could a plane go that far off course?’ But, then the second plane hit (the second tower) we realized that this was intentional.”
In response, Lessel said she and other school district officials drove to every Waterford school building and gave guidance and direction to faculty members and students.
She added that Waterford Schools had safety measures in place prior to the 9/11 attacks and that the district is proactive when it comes to providing safety and security resources and protocols.
Lessel said that some of those measures included card swipes at door entrances, security cameras in the schools and visitor sign-ins.
Wake up call for nation, community officials
Wolverine Lake Police Captain and Acting Chief John Ellsworth concurs with Roberts and said the need for heightened security paved the way for recalibrated public safety measures in west Oakland.
The event “changed the way we do things and how we look at security,” he said. “We no longer have that feeling of safety. Other countries have felt that for years, but we were immune — 9/11 was the wake up call. Unfortunately, it took a lot of lost lives to realize that.”
Ellsworth said he can still recall with clarity each moment of his day on 9/11.
“I was in the hospital waiting room — my wife had surgery — and after the second plane hit, my face turned white,” he said. “I immediately called my niece in New York City, but couldn’t get through. Everyone was on high alert and the skies were so quiet — it was like the world was numb and stunned into a state of sadness.”
Ellsworth added that just a couple weeks prior to 9/11, he was visiting the Pentagon with his family, while his dad was dining with his niece at the World Trade Center.
“Two weeks later, the trade center was smoldering in ruins. Nothing has been the same since,” he said.
In the wake of 9/11, Waterford Township firefighters now are mandated to be trained in bio-terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, and biologically-hazardous materials, according to Fire Chief Dennis Storrs.
“Police and fire have a new tact in dealing with terrorism countrywide,” he said. “Everyone is trained in some aspect of HAZ-MAT (hazardous materials) over and above EMS and firefighters, and much of it has transpired directly due to 9/11.”
Storrs said undoubtedly his feelings on 9/11 were similar to the feelings shared by so many others.
“It was surreal,” he said. “Like everybody else, I was totally stunned by it.”
Waterford was ready to send man-power to Ground Zero, but the region was overflowing with volunteers. Instead, Waterford firefighters raised $36,000 for widows and children devastated by personal losses stemming from the 9/11 attacks.
An eerie quiet at Oakland International Airport
The 9/11 aftershocks immediately altered the way air travel was conducted and forever changed security measures at airports across the country.
Oakland County Director of Central Services J. David VanderVeen said he remembers 9/11 as a “blue bird” day. He said he was driving along, listening to talk radio, when the host said a corporate airplane torpedoed into the World Trade Center.
“I thought, ‘What an odd accident for such a beautiful day,’” he said. “I went into the County Executive’s office and saw it live when the second airplane hit and got a sickening feeling. I knew then it was purposeful and we were under attack.”
Shortly following the attacks, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) shut down all air traffic in the nation.
“They grounded 4,500 aircraft in the country that were redirected to land at the nearest airport and affected hundreds of thousands of people,” VanderVeen said.
The FAA opened up air space initially for emergency and defense needs, but immediately began changing its procedures for air travel.
“It was an eerie feeling — the airport had no activity and you get used to the sights and sounds of travel,” he said.
It wasn’t until Sept. 13 that air travel resumed operations, beginning with commercial air carriers.
General aviation air space was made available gradually, which impacted Oakland County International Airport in Waterford Township, ranked as one of the world’s busiest general aviation airports. By Sept. 20, flight restrictions were lifted from general aviation fleets in keeping with a series of proclamations. Flight was restricted over sporting arenas and open-air assemblies.
Washington D.C.’s Reagan National Airport was the first to reopen to general aviation air travel. To this date, pilots can’t fly into the airport without special conditions due to the “vulnerability of the nation’s capital,” VanderVeen said.
Attacks triggered a crisis mode, precautions
Each arm of local government was left to contend with its own unique set of circumstances on 9/11, including school districts.
Janet Roberts, Huron Valley Schools’ director of community relations and fund development, said she recalls her knee-jerk reaction to the second terrorist attack.
“I knew this was a situation we had to address — a terrorist action — and we had to take steps to protect our kids. So we went into crisis mode,” she said.
The district set up an incident command station in the Board of Education office to assess the situation. The school district was automatically placed on lock down.
“We canceled everything,” Roberts said. “We brought kids back to the building. It was just so mind-boggling. We knew we had to take the utmost precautions.”
Television and radio use by elementary and middle school students was restricted. Only a select few high school classes were privy to television coverage and monitored it closely.
Panicked parents called or showed up to their children’s schools, asking to pick up their children.
“We told parents their kids could be released, but we assured them school was one of the safest places to be and we wanted to maintain a sense of normality,” Roberts said.
Overwhelming experience at Ground Zero
Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard said he remembers the 9/11 attacks well. When he first heard of the attempt to sever the head of America’s financial and military nerve center, he called a senior staff meeting to determine the process for making sure the county was on solid footing and prepared for anything.
“No one knew the scope or scale of the attack,” he said. “We were seeing it as it unfolded. You had multiple locations going on and no one knew, including the president, the extent, where to go, and what might be next.”
An analysis of critical infrastructure took place, and personnel was deployed around the county government complex to make sure the ability to function continued. But even though the county was prepared for any possible threat, very little could prepare Bouchard and his team for what took place in the coming days.
After receiving communication requesting assistance for New York City and determining that the county was sufficiently secure, a team was assembled “in short order,” Bouchard said. All-terrain vehicles and a mobile command center were assembled. And other police agencies across the county chipped in, leaving barely 15 hours after the attacks.
That was around midnight of what was technically Sept. 12, 2001, but in reality it was likely still 9/11 in everyone’s minds. After arriving in New York City, Bouchard said the experience was overwhelming.
“Anybody that worked at Ground Zero found it a very emotional experience,” he said. “You had so much going on at the site, from sights and sounds and smells, to the emotion of loved ones that were posting pictures everywhere: ‘Have you seen this person?’ or ‘Have you seen my loved one?’ Or holding a picture. It was a very, very emotional, strong memory for anyone who worked there.
“You knew that, when you walked past those pictures or individuals, that there was a pretty solid likelihood that they were not going to be found alive, given the destruction that you saw at Ground Zero,” he said.
And although Oakland County Homeland Security Manager Ted Quissenbery didn’t hold that title at the time of the 9/11 attacks — he was the police chief in Royal Oak — he was still “very much involved” in the security of his constituency that day, which saw a 180-degree turn in emergency preparedness.
“We’ve added terrorism and prevention to what we do,” he said. “This event changed us from basically HAZ-MAT spill and weather-related response calls, to include terrorism and homeland security.”
Safer now, but not where we need to be
Both Bouchard and Quissenberry said the nation is safer after the attacks, but Bouchard — a U.S. Senate candidate against Debbie Stabenow in 2006 — said that red tape tends to tie up the security apparatus.
“I would say we are safer. I would also say we are not where we need to be,” he said. There is still a lot of bureaucracy in Washington and a lot of institutional issues that need to be resolved. But in Oakland County specifically, I would say that we locally have put ourselves in 100-percent better footing.
“We are more prepared than most of the counties in America,” he added. We’ve been able to have equipment … respond virtually to whatever the situation was — biological or chemical, man-made or natural. We train for that, too.”
10-year anniversary ceremonies in west Oakland
To remember the events of 9/11, Highland Township will be hosting its annual 9/11 memorial on Sunday, Sept. 11 at Duck Lake Pine Park beginning at 2 p.m.
“We will have three local ministers participating to lead the invocation, reflection, and benediction,” Pilchowski said. “We really hope to see the whole community there to recall what happened on 9/11 and to celebrate our freedom.”
Walled Lake Schools will be holding a moment of silence on Monday, Sept. 12 at 8:46 a.m. to commemorate those who lost their lives on 9/11.
While there is no other districtwide event planned in the school district, the Walled Lake Western High School Drama Department is presenting a special tribute on Friday, Sept. 9 and Saturday, Sept. 10 at 7:30 p.m. called “Voices Remembered: A Memorial to 9/11.”
The program looks to present many views on the impacts of 9/11. Tickets are $5 and are only available at the door of the Walled Lake Western Auditorium.
West Bloomfield Township will be hosting a 9/11 memorial and dedication ceremony at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 11 at West Bloomfield Fire Station No. 5, located at 5425 W. Maple Road.
Among those expected to attend are U.S. Rep. Gary Peters (D-Orchard Lake, Waterford, West Bloomfield) along with honor guards from the West Bloomfield fire and police departments, which will perform a last alarm ceremony and a 21-gun salute.
“This is to honor those who lost their lives and to honor the firefighters and emergency response workers,” said Fire Chief Wiseman.
“We will also be dedicating a piece of the World Trade Center steel that was recovered from Ground Zero into a mobile display that can be shared within West Bloomfield and the wider community,” he added. “The steel itself is in the middle. It’s a large I-beam that is twisted and contorted and it makes you stop and think what that very substantial piece of steel must have gone through on that day and the fact that it touched all the lives you see in those photos. It’s a very moving piece.”
The West Bloomfield School District will be holding its very first Family Fun Night at the West Bloomfield High School varsity football game against Troy on Friday, Sept. 23.
The event will double as “A Salute to our U.S. Military, Police and Fire Heroes,” and will begin in the school parking lot at 5 p.m. with police and rescue vehicles, military vehicles, a fire engine and a patrol boat on hand.
There will also be face painting, airbrush tattoos, a rock climbing wall and a dunk tank on hand.
A tribute ceremony will begin at 6:45 p.m. with the football game kickoff at 7 p.m. Those with a military, police or fire ID will be granted free admission.
The city of Wixom is planning a brief public ceremony to pay tribute to those who lost their lives during the 9/11 terrorist attacks at 9:45 a.m. on Sunday, Sept. 11 at Fire Station No. 1, located at 1345 Wixom Road.
Parking will be provided at the Habitat Sanctuary just south of Fire Station No. 1 at North Wixom and Potter roads.
“Similar to last year, we want to remember what took place and include a short prayer,” said Fire Chief Jeff Roberts, who cites the 9/11 tragedy as a life-changing event.
“First, it was Pearl Harbor. For our generation, it was 9/11. Everything we do today is different from 10 years ago based solely on what happened that day,” he said.
During the ceremony, Roberts will unveil formal plans for the World Trade Center steel artifact that the Professional Wixom Firefighters Association received from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey as a gesture to honor 9/11 victims, and more specifically the hordes of first responders who sacrificed their lives trying to save others.
The steel artifact — a segment of a 6-foot I-beam weighing 1,500 pounds — is now being held in the Fire Station No. 1 lobby until it is formally enshrined on the station’s footprint, south of the building.
“We have the conceptual drawings ready and now we’ll start fund-raising for the project,” Roberts said.
The design calls for the steel artifact to be placed in a slab of granite shaped like a pentagon. Directly behind it will stand a couple of slender granite pieces resembling the Twin Towers. The site will be landscaped, complete with flagpoles and lights.
Roberts said the moment 9/11 occurred, the county tried to assemble a team to travel to Ground Zero, but scores of other communities had the same idea.
“Random people showed up and it became a logistical nightmare, so we were put on standby — due to the tremendous outpouring we never went in,” Roberts said.
In the aftermath of 9/11, public safety measures have been augmented.
“We’re a reactionary public and not the best at being prepared, but with the outcome of 9/11, we realize there’s a real need to be prepared,” Roberts said.
While Waterford Township will not be holding a candlelight vigil or ceremony, per se, it will be hosting its Longest Breakfast Table event on Saturday, Sept. 10 from 8:30-11 a.m., which will, in part, reflect on the 9/11 tragedy. The event is open to the public. Donations are encouraged.
“There will be a remembrance in place,” Storrs said. “We will be partnering with local churches and incite a numbers of prayers and remembrances.”
An oversized flag will be placed on a ladder truck so people remember the significance of the event.
In keeping with U.S. Sen. Carl Levin’s statewide initiative, sirens will be sounded at 1 p.m.
To commemorate the somberness and significance of 9/11, each Huron Valley School District building will be holding its own observance.
For example, at Oxbow Elementary, one of the teachers who worked on a rescue squad at Ground Zero is having students make wooden American flags. He will also bring in artifacts and present a slide show of pictures he took during his experience.
Several schools will commemorate the heroes and lessons learned through oral and written reflections.
Before the Friday, Sept. 9 varsity football game at Lakeland High School there will be a tribute including the Milford Veterans of Foreign Wars (VWF) Honor Guard, which will lead with the national anthem.
“We are going to have a moment of silence before the game with a small statement remembering 9/11, and the football team is going to run out with the American flag,” Roberts said.
At Milford High School, teacher Kyle McGrath is expounding on a Patriot Day lesson to encourage students to reflect on 9/11, including how it impacted them, how our nation responded, and discussion on the heroes involved.
On the first day of school, yesterday, Tuesday, Sept. 6, 9/11 remembrance ribbons were sold for $1 across the district, with all the money going to the American Red Cross. Students will also promote the “Text to Support the 9/11 Memorial and Museum,” whereby texting HOPE to 80888, a $10 donation would be added to the phone bill and donated to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum in New York City.
After workers hang a 30-foot-by-60-foot American flag on the exterior of the Oakland County Courthouse in the next few days, Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson will hold a commemoration in honor of the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks beginning at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 11. The ceremony is open to the public, according to Oakland County staff.
In addition, the Michigan Fallen Heroes Memorial Sept. 11 Ceremony and Commemorative Event will take place on Sept. 11 beginning at 3 p.m. at the county government campus. At the event, special tribute will be paid to fallen police officers and firefighters, and also the first responders to traveled to Ground Zero a decade ago.
Bouchard will be present, as will other first responders from the state who traveled to assist with recovery efforts. Law enforcement and firefighter associations will also be represented.
The event will take place at the Michigan Fallen Heroes Memorial, located at 1200 N. Telegraph Road in Pontiac.
In addition, the names of fallen police officers and firefighters — including Livonia Police Officer Larry Nehasil, who was killed in a shootout with two breaking and entering suspects in Walled Lake in January — will be added to the Michigan Fallen Heroes Memorial.