Several first responders were among the invited guests, including Norwalk police Chief Mike Conney, fire Capt. Rick Perry and Huron County Sheriff Todd Corbin.
Norwalk coach Chris Jackson explained how “the world watched in horror on television that sunny Wednesday morning” 18 years ago “when the horror of airliners (were) being turned into weapons on our own soil.” He called the terrorist attacks in New York City, Washington and Pennsylvania “the day that never ends,” yet were also events that won’t be forgotten, especially by people who remember them.
Josh Schlotterer, NHS director of student activities, was in Norwalk, about to head out to his first duty station in Brunswick, Maine when the terrorists attacked. He served in the U.S. Navy for almost five years.
“It was just shocking because we had never seen anything like that before. It’s something I remember: staying at my parents’ house, waking up and seeing that billow of smoke on TV,” said Schlotterer, who wondered at the time if the Twin Towers being hit was an accident.
He continued: “At first, you just don’t know what’s going on. You saw the second plane and you know it’s something much more than that. When I did get to my duty station, they were still on high alert and there was a lot more security to get into the bases because of that.”
Most, if not all, of the students in the choir and the golf teams, weren’t born yet 18 years ago.
“It’s unbelievable to think that this is history for everybody else. It’s great that we get to honor and recognize those people, though,” Schlotterer said. “It’s great to show respect for all those (who) were lost on Sept. 11, back in 2001. It’s great to teach the lessons of never forgetting and honoring those people (who) have gone through this tragic incident, so I think it’s great that we remember those victims and I think this is a great celebration of those victims and that day.”
Also in attendance was Staff Sgt. Andrew Hance, of the U.S. Army.
“It truly is amazing to see someone (who) wasn’t part of that and wasn’t there recognizing the sacrifice that Americans made,” he said, referring to the choir students.
The New London graduate was asked what Sept. 11 means to him.
“It means a lot. I didn’t join right after, or as a direct result, of Sept. 11; I did join shortly after. It just goes to show you how this country can come together and (what it can) do. Sadly, it takes a tragedy like that in order for something like that to happen, but that’s part of the reason I’m in the military … the brotherhood and camaraderie,” Hance said.
He said he feels a similar sense of togetherness closer to the time of the Sept. 11 anniversary and on certain holidays.
“I’m very thankful to live in Norwalk because it’s not just around the holidays that I get thanked for my service or someone picks up the tab on my lunch bill or something like that. We’re very lucky; I think our community is very patriotic.”
Schlotterer, who joined the Navy before the attacks, shared the immediate impact that 9/11 had on the world.
“It changed the military, so when I have conversations with those kids, I talk about my experience and then seeing the global war (on) terrorism and going out there and the difficult fight we did have — and continue to have — with terrorism across the world,” he said.
“New York City shut down. I had to drive to Boston a couple of days after it happened and go to my first duty station. It wasn’t business as usual; the military changed (and there were more) security measures. A lot of things changed that day,” Schlotterer said.
“Everybody was on high alert. We had an extended time of peace and that really changed things in the military.”
Before the attacks, Schlotterer said America had a feeling of being invincible and only saw terrorism “happen in countries far away from us.”
“For that to happen so close to home, that really did change the way we thought,” Hance said.