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WIBX Series Marking The 10th Anniversary Of 9/11 – Part II

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Utica, NY (WIBX) - As WIBX continues its series on the tenth anniversary of the 9/11, we turn our attention to one young man whose life was changed after the attack that send schock waves across the world. Navy Petty Officer David Shahbazi was a Junior in High School when he learned about the attacks. He says 9/11 compelled him to join the military. ”I was a young guy in high school I had no sense of real patriotism or really a bond to everyone else whereas after that event, its complete changed my life. I can’t help but feel the call to serve and do everything I can for this nation.”

He says the events of that day were surreal. ”I think any event like that on our soil is a shock. I couldn’t believe that it was happening at first and after continuing to watch the news and everything, it kind of set in a little bit–I was kind of dumb founded at that time.” Petty Officer Shahbazi whose spouse also enlisted after 9/11 says his family plans to mark the anniversary with a moment of silence. ”It’s a day of reflection really for us because that was the stepping stone into what happened over the next ten years of our lives.”

“When 9/11 occured it basically got peoples attention. This was the first time that we were attacked on our own soil, and thousand of innocent Americans were killed and it was kind of an eye-opener for people.” That’s Utica Fire Chief, Russell Brooks. He and 11 of his men travelled to Ground Zero on 9/11 to assist other First Responders with rescue efforts after the towers collapsed. He says after the attacks there was a lot of confusion and people were scared.

“We had hundreds of these white powder scares that we responded to across the tri-county area. People were concerned about anthrax attacks and any other conceivable issue that could possibly occur.” He says he remembers the look in the eyes of the Fire Fighters at the scene, facing the daunting task of rescuing the thousands still trapped in the burning towers.

“One of my recollection is the New York City Fire Fighters that pulled up in response to this incident, and I can remember their faces looking up at these towers. I knew that they knew the product that was burning, and I knew that they knew the construction of those towers, and that collapse was probably inevitable. And I’m sure they also knew there were 20-thousand individuals in that building that needed to be rescued.” Chief Brooks says in all his years as an Emergency First Responder, he thought he had seen the worse devastation, but nothing could have prepared him for what he encountered at Ground Zero that day.

“Arriving there it was…it’s undescribable. The destructiong of these enormous skyscrapers, this plume that just covered everything, some kind of dust, or who knows what was in it, but the thing I remember clearly are the faces of the New York City Fire Fighters. The ones who had been there when the building collapsed, or came shortly after and had been working all day. They just had these blank stares, and I remember one looking for his brother who was a Fire Fighter, and I remember one who was looking for his father who was a Fire Fighter.”

The Chief and his men came back to Utica with heavy hearts and minds filled with devastating images of the events that unfolded. Chief Brooks says there are still days when he wonders if it was all a dream. ”Once in a while I still stop and ask myself, “Was that a dream or did that really happen?” As we mark the 10th anniversary of 9/11, Chief Brook says he’s seen the outpouring of support dwindle. ”Through the years I’ve seen the interest go down and the attendance at these 9/11 events of remembrance are not very well attended, and when I come down the street on that day, I don’t see the flags and the God Bless America signs and the waves…” He says as time goes by he hopes we all keep the victims of 9/11 in our hearts and minds and not lose the sense of unity the nation felt on that terrible day.

We asked the Muslim Chaplain at Syracuse University, Mr. Tanweer Haq, to offer the American-Muslim prespective on the events that unfolded that day. He said, ”After 9/11 the atmosphere was one of suspicion, one of looking at the Muslim community as part of the plot for what happened on September 11. The perception was difficult to change and many Muslims suffered on account of that.”  He says immediately after the terror attacks, many Muslim-Americans were killed, persecuted and many Masques across the country were vandalized.

Haq says it’s important that people remember that over 300 Muslim-Americans were murdered on 9/11. He says the terrorist who carried out the attacks do not speak for the Muslim community and blames certain extremist groups of using the Muslim faith to manipulate others to carry out acts of terrorism. He also doesn’t agree with the criticism that Muslim leaders are not doing enough to speak out against acts of violence in the name of Islam, and pointed to many Muslim organizations across the country working to build a stronger relationship based on mutual respect and understanding with their fellow Americans.

He says however, this work must continue. ”The right thing for the Muslim community to do is to keep working for building understanding, building bridges and living their normal lives and taking a more active role in public affair.”

Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano says on this 10th anniversary of September 11, the safety of the American public remains the department’s highest priority. She says although threats remain, the U.S. is stronger than it was on 9/11, more prepared to confront evolving threats, and more resilient than ever before.

She said, “I think we are significantly safer, and we have many layers in place that would prevent a 9/11 style attack. We have better intelligence gathering, better information sharing, we have better security on Visas that are issued, we have better security on students in flight schools, we have better security in terms of being able to target passengers before they even get to the airport, we have better security in the airports themselves.” Napolitano reminds that security is a shared responsibility, and everyone plays an important role in helping to keep our communities safe.

It’s been ten long years, but we still mourn the loss of the thousands of innocent men and women killed that day, for all those who gave the ultimate sacrifice when the country went to war, and we honor those who continue to fight to protect our nation’s freedom.

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