GRAFTON—Most people can rarely recall what they had for lunch more than a week ago, but if you ask anyone who was alive during the September 11, 2001 attacks, and they will be able to call to mind even the smallest details of that day, at least, that is the belief of two FBI Police Officers who responded to Ground Zero shortly after the attacks.
Lieutenant Tim Henry and Sergeant Khris Johnston are both highly decorated FBI Policemen, who were called to duty to help with the efforts in New York after the horrific attacks at the World Trade Center Towers.
The two, in addition to 40 area first responders, were invited to a special program at the International Mother’s Day Shrine, held by the Rotary Club of Grafton, honoring the efforts of first responders and the lives affected by the tragic events that took place on 9/11.
“It is very humbling to be here. I don’t know that I can do that day justice,” shared Harvey. “We are going to share with you some of the more memorable things that we take away from being there, as well as things that impacted us the most.”
They shared that within a few weeks of the attacks, the FBI had a contingent in place, and volunteers were sent in three waves to help with efforts at Ground Zero.
“Life changed on that day. If you fly, your life changed. Banking changed. At it all changed because that day,” Johnston voiced. “There is nothing glamorous about what we did in New York. We were there to support the FBI’s operations in any way that we could and the investigation of the crimes that were committed that day.”
Throughout their presentation, the officers recalled the sights that they were privy to, during their efforts and how being there had changed their lives.
“We all sat and watched it on the news. I had the luxury of watching for 30 days before being sent down with the second group,” Harvey recalled. “It didn’t do it any justice. You don’t wrap your mind around the enormity of what took place until you’re there.”
He said that on his first and second days on site, he was taken aback by the size of the impact.
“It was a war zone. It was like a bomb was literally dropped right in the middle of it. There was nothing there recognizable,” Harvey voiced. “It really sunk in and it really makes you think about what you have at home and what was literally sitting underneath of where we were at.”
They reported that Ground Zero was 14.6 acres. To show just how large of an area it was, the two showed a blocked off section of Grafton that was 1.2 acres smaller than Ground Zero.
“This is roughly the size in this enclosed area. That is Main Street to the south, Ethel Street to the east, Francis Street to the north and Luzadder Street to the west,” Harvey noted. “And, again, that is 1.2 acres smaller than the rubble pile at Ground Zero.”
They recalled that while helping with the efforts, the amount of destruction really set in with them.
“You couldn’t see anyone’s faces. You couldn’t tell who other first responders were, because everyone was covered in soot and dust. You just knew that they were people there to help,” Johnston recalled.
They shared that although such a horrible act had just occurred, the people of New York showed such compassion for those helping.
“I have been in uniform for almost 29 years, and I have never experienced the kindness, the generosity and respect of being in a uniform from everybody,” Harvey said. “It was 24/7 that people were down there handing us food and water and thanking us. That was truly the day that our country became one, and it was about taking care of each other.”
Johnston recalled the fear that New Yorkers harbored in the days, weeks and months following the attacks. He noted that even today, there are individuals who are still fearful that another attack could happen.
The officers shared little stories from their time there, as well as took the time to answer questions that the Rotarians and guests had.
During the afternoon, Rotary President Greg Cartwright, acknowledged the Boothsville VFD, Flemington EMS, Flemington Fire Department, Grafton Fire Department, Grafton Police Department, Taylor County EMS, Taylor County Sheriff Department, Volunteers in Police Service, and WV State Police with Certificates of Appreciation.
Everyone in attendance was served a delicious meal, provided by Jerry’s restaurant.
To cap off the day, Vice Mayor Brenda Thompson recited a proclamation signed by Grafton Mayor Peggy Knotts Barney declaring September 11, 2019 as Patriot day in the City of Grafton, requesting that all citizens lower their flags to half-staff and join in a moment of silence and prayer for those affected by the tragic events of September 11, 2001.
The reaches of the effects of that infamous day will remain with all who experienced it in any capacity, and US citizens will not soon forget September 11, 2001.