Andrew Dys

9/11 - Yes, Friday still matters

The World Trade Center steel beam is lowered into position at the York County Fire Training Center during the installation of the 9/11 monument in 2011.
The World Trade Center steel beam is lowered into position at the York County Fire Training Center during the installation of the 9/11 monument in 2011.

On Friday, someone will walk down the hallway at the York County Veterans Affairs Office.

The veteran will come in, quiet after the doors open, waiting, and peek in the office after a knock and ask for someone to help with VA health benefits or other problems.

Veterans Affairs officer Joe Medlin, an Iraq and Afghanistan vet, or one of the others there – including Chris Hoagland, another two-time war veteran – quietly and quickly will handle it.

That’s why 9/11 still matters 14 years later.

When 3,000 people are killed by terrorists, it should always matter.

Hundreds of area soldiers from armories in Rock Hill, Fort Mill, Chester, and Lancaster, and York’s Army Reserve center, served in those wars. Hundreds more in active-duty units went. They missed holidays and birthdays and kids growing up. They saw combat and death and some of them, yes, had to kill people.

Not all came home.

Pat Leach, Paul Neff, Kenneth James Butler and T.J Dudley, all of York County, died in those wars, Logan Tinsley and Zandra Worthy-Walker of Chester County died in those wars.

That’s why 9/11 matters.

Friday dozens of firefighters will go to work and others will go to stations as volunteers. At 8:43 a.m., they will remember the 343 firefighters killed on Sept. 11, 2001, and so many other cops and EMTs and others. Some will gather near a piece of the World Trade Center at the York County Fire Training Center on Ogden Road. Steel and granite, a memorial.

There will be a moment of silence and some quiet time. Flags will be raised and tears will fall.

Anyone, firefighter or not, is invited. If there are five people, fine. 50 people, great. If there are 500 people, even better.

“That’s why we have the memorial, so people can go and remember,” said longtime volunteer Bob Davenport, who is a judge but always tells anybody that he is first and foremost a fireman. Davenport drove the truck to go get the steel from the World Trade Center.

In tiny Fort Lawn in Chester County a longtime resident who, from his decades living in New York, knew several firefighters who died on 9/11 was behind Chester County’s 9/11 monument. Richard Hulse will hold a ceremony at 7:30 Friday night in front of another piece of 9/11 World Trade center steel.

He doesn’t know if two people or 202 will show.

It does not matter.

“If you can’t take some time on 9/11, to remember all those people got killed, then something is wrong,” said Hulse, 73. “I will never stop remembering them.”

Friday there will be other events. Prayer services in Rock Hill at City Hall and in Lancaster and at Winthrop University and elsewhere.

There will be the annual flying of American flags from the Interstate 77 bridges, a tradition started on Sept. 11, 2001 by the late Leonard Farrington of Rock Hill. Farrington was an old man even then in 2001, A World War II Navy vet, and he waved his flag until he had to crawl into bed, but he waved it.

He did it every year on 9/11 until he died.

The Fort Mill bridge at Sutton Road, Exit 83, is now named for Leonard Farrington after he died three years ago. Dozens of others, led by the Rolling Thunder veterans group, now carry on the tradition on 9/11, in the morning and afternoon rush hours.

They wave for Pete Vega, a firefighter in New York who died on 9/11. His parents, Ira and Maureen Rosenberg, live in Rock Hill in the quiet dignity of remembering a son who died saving others.

They wave for a country filled with men such as Alberto Santoro just up the street at Lowe’s in Fort Mill. Behind the paint counter. An immigrant from Argentina.

Mario Santoro, his son, not once, not twice, but three times rushed into the World Trade Center as a paramedic to help people out. Mario Santoro died when the north tower fell.

Mario Santoro, an immigrant who loved America so much, died with a 2-year-old child in his arms trying to get that toddler to safety.

On Saturday, a dozen people from Rock Hill – 10 of them city firefighters, plus one wife and a girlfriend – will climb the 50-story Duke Energy building in Charlotte in honor of the 110-story World Trade Center victims. For some, it is the second, third or fourth time. For others, their first time. There are old guys and young guys. Wrenched knees from saving people in fires and young knees from new hires.

50 flights up, in fire gear. Come down. 50 flights up, in gear, come down. 10 more flights.

“It just is the right thing to do,” said Capt. Jason Dillon of the Rock Hill Fire Department, in his fourth year of the climb. Dillon is 40 years old. His knees are 40 years old.

“So I still go,” Dillon said. “The firefighters on 9/11, no matter how old they were, they didn’t stop.”

No, those who rush to help, every day, the cops and the firefighters and the ambulance workers and the volunteers and the war veterans, they don’t moan about the old knees and aching backs.

They salute on 9/11.

They cry on 9/11.

Because 9/11 still matters.

Andrew Dys: 803-329-4065

9/11 remembrance events

Lancaster County Patriots Day ceremonies and 9/11 prayer gathering will be noon Friday at the Historic Courthouse on Main Street. Residents, community leaders and pastors are invited for prayer. For information, call 803-286-7729 or email

The public is invited to a moment of silence and ceremony at 8:30 a.m. Friday at the monument outside the York County Fire Training Grounds, 2151 Ogden Road, Rock Hill. The monument brought to York County by volunteer firefighters was built with a section of beam from the World Trade Center in New York and granite markers that honor those who died in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks where almost 3,000 people were killed. The monument will be moved in December to the new county fire training grounds near York.

The town of Fort Lawn in Chester County will have a 9/11 ceremony at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the 9/11 monument outside the community center, 5554 Main St., Fort Lawn. Volunteer firefighter Richard Hulse commissioned a sculpture made from a piece of World Trade Center beam that is on display outside the community center. The public is invited.

Volunteers from the Rolling Thunder Rock Hill chapter will wave American flags from several York County bridges over Interstate 77 on Friday, including the Patriot Leonard Farrington Memorial Bridge at the Sutton Road Exit 83 interchange. Flags will be waved during the morning 7-9 a.m. and afternoon 4-6 p.m. The bridge was officially named for the late Farrington three years ago after Farrington, a World War II veteran, waved his American flag from the bridge the day of the attacks in 2001. He continued the annual event until his death in 2012. Rolling Thunder now handles the flag waving duties and encourages participation of the public, fire departments, and other emergency responders. Volunteers will gather at the Home Deport parking lot at 6:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. to deploy to bridges.