Palm Beach State College commemorated the 22nd anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks with more than 500 staff, students and members of community and military service organizations gathering at a College remembrance ceremony held outside the Public Safety Conference Center on the Lake Worth campus on Monday, Sept. 11.
The event, kicked off by Lake Worth campus Provost Barbara Cipriano who gave opening remarks, was open to the public and featured the Olympic Heights Community High School Color Guard, Florida Atlantic University ROTC, facts about the attacks and personal testimonies from PBSC staff, including Vincent Morton, PBSC’s criminal justice director.
Morton was one of 22 members of the U.S. Army Drill Team stationed in Arlington, Va. at the time of the tragedy. He and his team made a run to the Pentagon after the first tower was hit.
When Morton was on the east side of the Pentagon, he noticed a plane flying directly toward him getting lower and lower until the roof completely obscured the plane.
“I remember the shock wave knocking us off our feet and a very cool day getting warm very fast,” said Morton. “And no matter how much I try, I still can’t remember the sound of the impact.”
Morton noted that as people were running out, his squad leader realized there was little they could do and told the team to head back to the base, where they were immediately placed on security detail. Shortly after, they were told to go back to the Pentagon to assist with body and evidence recovery.
“Without going into gory details, I still remember the smell,” Morton said. “Most people hear my story and say oh that’s amazing you were there or indicate that I’m some type of special person. However, I’ve never found it amazing or considered myself special. Too me, it has only been negative memories and images stitched into my brain. However, on days like today where you take the time to remember, thank the fallen, and show your respect for those who will sacrifice themselves for you and listen to our stories is what makes our negative memories worth it.”
Adding to Morton’s remarks was Emergency Medical Services Director Matt Keeler, who was just coming off a shift at the fire station when the tragedy occurred.
“As a third-generation firefighter, that day was a mix of emotion,” Keeler said. “The one thing that makes me remember that day more than anything else was hearing the sound of the PASS devices going off for the first few hours which is an alarm that goes off when a firefighter can’t move.
Keeler, who eventually traveled to ground zero to help in the recovery efforts, said there were 343 devices that went off that day. “It’s difficult to hear that sound because it tells you that one of your brothers or sisters cannot get up.”
Keeler also noted that many students today are growing up not knowing about these major events like Sept. 11 or Pearl Harbor and that it’s the job of first responders to make sure that does not happen.
Other who spoke were Dr. Peter Barbatis, vice president of student services and enrollment management, Fire Recruit Director David Hamel, Dr. Germany Dixon, associate dean of public safety, Provost and Dean of Student Services Dr. Van Williams, and Ronnie Malave, dean of student services, who gave closing remarks from PBSC alumna Daverlin Young. The invocation was given by Chaplain Eligio Marquez Veray and the national anthem was sung by Laiylah Jeudy.
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