An American flag is suspended between two ladder trucks in a 9-11 tribute
Dennis "Hookman" Howell holds his award
Dennis "Hookman" Howell named First Responder of the Decade
A large contingent of police officers, firefighters, EMS, and other first responders filled the seats on the field at Union County Stadium as a crowd gathered in the stands to honor them and to remember the tragic events and victims of the 9-11 terrorist attacks.
Retired Army Lt. Col. Timika Wilson served as the Master of Ceremonies for the commemoration event. Amy House led the national anthem. Retired Navy Captain Trey Carson was the guest speaker for the event. Carson, who is a Union native, talked about his own experiences working in the Pentagon the morning of September 11. He noted he had moved offices just two months prior, and his former office was one of the ones that sustained a direct hit from the airplane that morning. He said he was in a budget meeting when word of the planes hitting the tower came, and when the plane hit the Pentagon, he felt a thud and the building shook. He compared it to an earthquake tremor. The corridor began to fill with smoke, and people began streaming past him to get out of the building. Carson quickly followed.
In his speech, Carson paid tribute to two of his heroes from the day. One was an unsung hero that day, General Mark Sassville, who was one of the first two F-16 pilots from Andrews Air Force Base in the air over Washington, D.C., tasked with trying to find the hijacked United Flight 93 and bring it down. He assigned himself and Lt. Heather “Lucky” Penny to the mission, which was so urgent there was not even time to load missiles onto the planes, so Sassville and Penny went into the air virtually unarmed, essentially making it a suicide mission to collide with the airline flight and bring it down. Thankfully, he and Penny did not have to fulfill their mission, as the passengers on board Flight 93 succeeded in defeating the terrorists and crashing the plane into a field in Pennsylvania.
The other hero was Paul Gonzalez, Deputy Comptroller of the Defense Intelligence Agency. Here’s the story as Carson related it:
(audio below story, including First Responder of the Decade presentation to Dennis Howell)
With Howell standing beside them, Catherine Childers sang “Wind Beneath My Wings” with Eric Childers accompanying on guitar. Following the ceremony, a silent 5K was held, while others took to the stadium steps to honor the brave firefighters on that day by walking the equivalent of 110 stories, the same number of floors as the World Trade Center.