This weekend, the nation will mark the 15th anniversary of 9/11. The disaster has taken on different meanings for different people, but the events of that day in 2001 are particularly etched into the memories of New Yorkers.
"I'll never forget that day. I think anyone who was alive at that time will never forget that day."
When the Twin Towers came down, New York’s American Red Cross -including Western New York’s Chapter - was among the first to respond.
"When we think back to that day 15 years ago, the airports were closed, so when that need was there, we were almost as close as anybody," said Jay Bonefede of Western New York's Red Cross. "As soon as people started seeing what was happening there, our volunteers starting gearing up and driving down there."
However, that disastrous day also began a lasting bond with survivor families, Bonefede said.
"The Red Cross has worked with the support group, the Western New York Families of September 11th, ever since that day," he said. "They have set up their annual flag display outside our mansion headquarters at 786 Delaware. There's an individual flag representing each of the lives lost, approximately 3,000 of them, out on our front lawn."
Bonefede says the flags are not only a moving tribute, but a great teaching tool for children who may not have been alive or old enough on 9/11 to understand the impact of the massive event.
"For my nine-year-old son, I think (the flag display) is a great opportunity to explain to him and keep that memory alive and the younger generation as well," he said.
Bonefede just returned from helping flood victims in Louisiana recover from the worst natural disaster to hit American soil since Hurricane Sandy four years ago. However, whether natural or man-made, he said every event is an opportunity to learn.
"We learn what went well and what can be done better," he said. "Obviously, no two disasters are alike. September 11 is hopefully a day none of us ever repeat," he said. "We put those into our training and into our best practices so we're able to respond when people are in need the best we can."
The Red Cross also will be holding a blood drive Friday from noon to 6 p.m. at its headquarters in honor of the anniversary. Western New York is still in the midst of a critical blood shortage. It is just one of the many ways the event is being remembered locally this weekend.