Nearly two decades removed from 9/11, it’s possible some motorists on the Scajaquada Expressway Wednesday morning didn’t even realize it was the 18th anniversary of the worst terrorist attack ever carried out on U.S. soil.
A group of community members, police officers, firefighters and military members made sure that wasn’t the case.
A long-running 9/11 flag remembrance was once again held on the pedestrian bridge over the Scajaquada Expressway Wednesday. A few dozen community members, Buffalo police officers and firefighters, as well as local military members gathered on the bridge to remember the attacks and nearly 3,000 people who were killed, and perhaps even more importantly, remind passing motorists.
It seemed to work, as their display received near constant honks of support.
“This is a great place because there’s a lot of traffic,” said Laurie Kostrzewski. “People might say, ‘Oh, that’s right, it’s September 11th.’ They might not have woken up today realizing what it was.”
Kostrzewski, who lives near the bridge, started the remembrance in 2003. She said she first came onto the bridge with her American flag alone on just the second-ever anniversary of 9/11, and realized she should expand it to include others who also wanted to remember.
She and other attendees agreed such events agreed such remembrances are only becoming more important as time passes.
“I think the saying for this day is, ‘Always remember,’” said Buffalo Police Chief Anthony Barba, “and the further you get away from the actual events, the people that were there, it becomes more important to them that people don’t forget their loved ones.”
Barba added 9/11 is particularly emotional for police officers and firefighters. More than 400 first responders lost their lives in the attack on the World Trade Center in New York City.
“This is just a reminder how fragile our lives are,” Barba added. “We run into the fires, we go into where the gunshots are being heard and sometimes we don’t come out. In that event, so many of us didn’t come out.”
Katherine Erbsol said becoming an EMT for American Medical Response has given her a different perspective on the event.
“It definitely gets to me every year,” she said, “but all you can do is never forget and learn from what people did and what went well and what didn’t. On an emergency response level, we learned worlds and worlds of things from that specific disaster.”
Erbsol was a third-grader attending school in California on Sept. 11, 2001. She still remembers her school calling an assembly to inform students of the attacks.
She noted kids and younger adults today don’t have those memories. Most, if not all of the students in K-12 schools today weren’t even born when the attacks happened.
For that very reason, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation earlier this week allowing for moments of silences in schools across the state on every 9/11 anniversary.
Wednesday’s bridge remembrance was also attended by local politicians like Assemblyman Sean Ryan, D-Buffalo, and state Sen. Chris Jacobs, R-Buffalo.
Ryan noted the fallout of 9/11 continues, as those who survived attacks at the World Trade Center and Pentagon continue to deal with — and die from — 9/11-related illnesses.
Approximately 40,000 people have a health condition related to 9/11, including nearly 10,000 who have cancer due to exposure to toxins at the attack sites, according to the World Trade Center Health Program.
Congress extended the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund in July for another 70 years, essentially covering survivors for the remainder of their lives.
“It’s been 18 years, but we can’t think of this as something that’s over,” Ryan said.