HEROIC WORK — Oneida County Health Director Phyllis Ellis praises police officers, military servicemen and women, firefighters and emergency workers during today’s prayer breakfast sponsored by the Genesis Group. “Our first responders put themselves at risk every time they run toward danger. They have no guarantee they will return home to their families at night,” she said. (Sentinel photo by Roger Seibert)

First responders praised as region observes 9/11

Published Sep 11, 2017 at 4:00pm

WHITESBORO — Members of Oneida County’s police and fire departments joined ambulance workers, EMTs and state police and military personnel to remember the losses suffered, and the courage showed, during the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks. The Genesis Group, a business and community organization in the Utica area, has hosted a prayer breakfast at Hart’s Hill Inn in Whitesboro each year to ask for God’s help and to remember the bravery of those who responded to the attacks.

Keynote speaker Phyllis Ellis, who is director of the Oneida County Health Department, asked those in attendance to remember those who continue to help those impacted by Hurricane Harvey in Texas and Hurricane Irma in Florida, along with those in Mexico suffering from a major earthquake that happened last week.

“Our first responders put themselves at risk every time they run toward danger. They have no guarantee they will return home to their families at night,” she said.

Terror arrives, courage answers

Osama bin Laden, an heir of a multi-million dollar construction company in Saudi Arabia and a leader in the radical Muslim terror organization al-Qaeda, ordered the hijacking of four jet planes. This was in response to the American military presence in Saudi Arabia and their invasion of Iraq in 1991.

The hijackers boarded planes in Logan Airport, in Boston, took control of two planes and crashed them into both of the towers at the World Trade Center. The third plane hit the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. and a fourth crashed in a field in rural Pennsylvania after passengers overtook their captors.

The U.S. in response entered into lengthy wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. U.S. Navy SEALS shot and killed Bin Laden in a raid on his compound in Pakistan in April 2011.

Ellis’ husband Art was serving as a state trooper when the attacks happened, and he went to New York to assist in the cleanup while Ellis and her staff waited in Utica to receive casualties that never arrived.

Nearly 3,000 people, workers in the WTC and those who helped them, died in the attacks. Another 70,000 who worked in rescue and recovery efforts are at risk for developing various illnesses caused by exposure to asbestos and other toxic materials that entered the air after the WTC towers collapsed. 

Those affected include children living near Manhattan. “These children have higher incidences developing heart and lung disease after having been exposed to toxic dust when the towers collapsed,” Ellis said.

Art Ellis is among those affected by those toxins. He was forced to retire from the state police in 2006 because of illness.

The Sept. 11, 2001 attacks are the largest incident of foreign terrorism on American soil. Most Americans can, as Ellis noted, remember where they were when they received news of the attacks that morning.

“I was with the army mucking around during training in the swamps of Louisiana when the attacks happened,” Scott Hoag, a patrolman and school resource officer with the Rome Police Department, said. Hoag was part of the color guard that began and ended the event.

The courage brought about by professional responders and private citizens the attacks continues to be shown today.

“The response to those attacks serve to remind us of the best in human nature, how we continue to work together to help each other during times of need,” Hoag said.