GREENBURGH, N.Y. — After the planes hit the Twin Towers in Lower Manhattan on Sept. 11, 2001, Hector Otero Jr. was scared. It was the first time he realized that not everyone feared the United States. He also thought that America could be attacked again at any time.
“I remember feeling scared, sorrow, hopeless and then angry,” said the Elmsford resident, now 27. “[I felt] angry that it took this [attack] to remind us what this nation meant to us. Angry that it had to take so many lives to open the hearts of millions.”
Otero wanted to make a difference and wanted to honor the lives that were lost. He joined the Marines in 2003, immediately after graduating high school, knowing full well that he would be asked to defend his country. He served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and came home in 2007.
Otero swore he would not forget that infamous day, and all that it meant to him.
“Sept. 11 means sacrifice to me,” he said. “I lost friends, people I loved and hold dear. People I honor. ‘Never forget’ is not just a catchphrase, but a way of life for me.”
Elmsford Deputy Fire Chief Syd Henry was at work when the towers were struck. When a co-worker said a plane had smacked into the World Trade Center, Henry thought that a small private plane had gone off course. But soon, he and his co-workers learned the truth.
As a firefighter, Henry’s thoughts shifted to the safety of the emergency responders who were walking through dust, sorting through rubble and trying to save lives. Westchester firefighters sped to Lower Manhattan to help.
At the site of the attacks, people were missing or presumed dead. Henry was devastated that his friend and fellow firefighter Andy Fredericks, of FDNY Squad Co. 18, was one of them.
“The weeks that followed were personally consumed by a blur of unspeakable anger, outrage, disbelief and grief,” Henry said. “Time has [now] healed many of the wounds, but time has not stricken those horrific memories. Thoughts of ‘never forget’ and ‘never again’ will remain forever. May God bless America.”
Greenburgh resident Marques Younger was left speechless by the Sept. 11 attacks. At the time, he was in 11th grade, and felt that “they finally hit home,” he recalled, alluding to the fact that America was now bearing the brunt of international terrorists’ anger.
“You always see everyone else get attacked; you never hear of the United States getting attacked,” Younger said. “But those people didn’t deserve to die, and extremists are [expletive],” he said.
Greenburgh will hold its Sept. 11 anniversary ceremony at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday in the multipurpose room at Anthony F. Veteran Park. Elmsford’s memorial service will be held at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Senior Community Center, located at 10 North Stone Ave.