Where were you on that day?
Exhilarating or catastrophic, memorable or horrific, most people can remember where they were and what they were doing when important historic events took place. Some recall the news of the Allied victory in World War II, some the news footage of when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, or when Richard Nixon resigned. Others remember their location and activity when they heard that President Reagan had been shot, or that glorious day when the Berlin wall finally fell. Do you remember what you were doing when the calendar turned over to January 1, 2000, the beginning of the new century?
Most of us do, at least if we were sober at the time. All of those events bring back differing emotions for us, but for those over the age of twenty-two, the most compelling and memorable moment will be the day the terrorists commandeered those planes and flew them into the World Trade Center towers, the Pentagon, and into the ground in Pennsylvania. September 11, 2001. That day and the events that unfolded in it have etched themselves into our national memory and conscience.
One local resident makes it his mission in life to make sure we never forget that day. Arthur William Lorenzo has lived in Carthage for about seven years and wonders what took him so long to get here. A self-confessed workaholic, he describes his career as “varied”, having worked as a sales rep, a comedian, a cook, and a carpenter’s apprentice, among others. Arthur came to Carthage when his long-time girlfriend, a Carthage native, passed away, and says her family always treated him as one of their own. In turn, he adopted Panola County as his own, and while his roots are in Staten Island, New York, he loves the generous spirit of the people.
Arthur attributes that generous spirit to helping him present the second 9-11 Memorial in Carthage. This year marks the 15th anniversary of that fateful day, and like most others, Arthur remembers where he was and what he was doing when someone told him the news. He was living and working in Las Vegas, Nevada, at the time, and his parents had come to visit and stay a few days with him there. As the events unfolded and Arthur and his family came to know what the rest of the world knew, he experienced the same sadness, anger, and fear the rest felt. Within a few hours, the residents of Las Vegas, along with the people vacationing there, began to bring flowers, teddy bears, handwritten notes and other memorials to the New York, New York Casino in Las Vegas, and soon thousands of items were placed in front of the casino to let the people of New York City know they were not alone. In 2003, the casino built a permanent home for many of the items and artifacts from that day, and thanks to curators and members of the faculty at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, those items remain open for viewing. The curators of the memorial use a climate-controlled warehouse to store all of the materials not currently on display to help preserve the articles for posterity.
A yearly memorial began in Las Vegas on 9-11 to allow people who were affected by the events of that day to come together and remember those who were killed in the attack and those first responders who put their lives on the line to help those in New York, at the Pentagon, and in Pennsylvania. The memorial gathering was very well attended, and Arthur met many people and heard many stories. Some of the most poignant stories come from those who were children in school at the time; their straightforward questions and statements stand out to Arthur as being the most honest statements about the events of that day.
Two pieces of the debris from the World Trade Center towers are on display at the Fire Training Center in Longview. The men and women of that facility made a beautiful and moving presentation of the debris, and that memorial gives East Texans a chance to see and experience some what the people in New York City went through.
Arthur began fomenting the idea of a 9-11 Memorial for Panola County a few years back and spearheaded last year’s successful event. He is also leading the efforts in this year’s memorial. He has garnered support from many local businesses and individuals in the area, and despite not being a non-profit entity, his efforts have been quite fruitful. The visitors who attended last year’s memorial came away with a renewed respect and awe for that day and the catastrophes that occurred in 2001. Arthur sees that same reaction when he hears from those who were directly affected by the hijacking and crashing of those planes. He has talked with people who were late and missed flights, only to realize later that their missed flight was one that had been hijacked and crashed. He talks with and listens to those who still suffer from the physical effects of the cleanup at Ground Zero and the extent to which they have had to go to get treatment for cancer, PTSD and other physical ailments related to and attributed to the materials and debris they handled.
One of the stories Arthur tells about the days following September 11, 2001 involves the man who was in charge of the process of removing the debris from the wreckage. In his mind’s eye, that man still sees the tons of material and remembers the barges filled with metal and concrete that was offloaded into a Staten Island landfill. Those memories still affect him adversely. Attending this year’s memorial will be a man who currently lives in Tyler but who survived both the 1993 and the 2001 World Trade Center bombings. Arthur looks forward to his presence at the gathering and hearing his stories once again. These stories are two of many that Arthur has heard and relates to others; out of consideration and respect for them, however, he doesn’t use their names, as many of them still carry the mental trauma with them.
Using as inspiration the poem Paul Revere’s Ride, first published in the Atlantic Monthly magazine in 1861, Arthur composed a poem about the events of September 11, 2001.
“All freedom-loving people remember this date well,
For it was the day the World Trade Center fell.
From the air, the cowards, in stolen chariots they flew
Into the great towers, standing one hundred ten stories, times two.
For more than twenty-five years those majestic giants did stand,
A source of great pride for those who had built them by hand
As well as for the people in whose city they did stand.
From ribbon cutting to opening, seven years it did take.
A more beautiful backdrop for Lady Liberty, no one could make.
But then, with no warning, no reason, no rhyme
At 8:45 a.m. New York City time
The North Tower was struck first from out of the blue,
Then eighteen minutes later the South Tower was struck, too.
For forty-seven minutes both towers did stand
Trying to stop their destruction by man.
The South Tower stood tall for as long as it could,
But was the first to collapse due to bad versus good.
Forty minutes later the North Tower would also give way
Crashing to the ground in thick clouds of black, white and gray.
But take heed, freedom lovers, and don’t you dismay
For from out of their ashes, their rubble, their smoke,
These giants will again rise in this great city of hope.
More majestic and beautiful again they will stand
As a symbol of freedom in this our great land.”
Arthur also drew a flag which represents all three crash sites: the Pentagon on the left; the World Trade Center towers in the middle; and the Pennsylvania crash site where so many heroes died.
He wants us to know some things about that day and the years since September 11, 2001. First, that we made it through that day, and that as a nation we are stronger for having endured it. Second, that it’s not just those who were killed that were hurt. Many people still bear the scars – both physical and emotional – from the events. And third, he wants people to remember not just the events but the aftereffects of the events as well, and that we should never forget.
The second 9-11 Memorial in Carthage will be held at the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame on the weekend of September 10 and 11. The exhibit will open at 8:00 a.m. and close at 8:00 p.m. both days. Snacks will be generously provided by local vendors and restaurants. Arthur appreciates all of the vendors who have contributed to the success of the memorial, and says this: Bring your family, not your wallet.