By Starrla Cray
WINSTED, MN An estimated 2,500 to 2,700 people toured the 9/11 Never Forget Mobile Exhibit in Winsted Aug. 10-12.
Coincidentally, that’s close to the number of people who lost their lives at the World Trade Center site in Lower Manhattan during the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
Among the victims were 343 New York City firefighters. Two of the firefighters who survived the tragedy, Chris Edwards and Patrick Clancy, along with other volunteers, have made it their goal to make sure Americans “never forget” the events of 9/11 and its aftermath.
Edwards, Clancy, and others involved with the exhibit arrived in Winsted Aug. 9, with hundreds of people greeting them along McLeod County Road 1.
“They commented on how welcoming the community was,” said Winsted resident Tom Ollig, who was the initial catalyst in bringing the exhibit to town.
The first tours were the afternoon of Aug. 10. Rose Heimerl with the Winsted Volunteer Fire Department said they initially started with 25 people to a group, then went up to as many as 40 in order to get as many people through as possible.
“Every day was steady,” she said.
Worth the wait
A few people waited as long as 2.5 hours to see the exhibit, but Heimerl said she heard from many people that it was worth the wait. Some even went back again to see the exhibit a second time.
Throughout it all, Heimerl said the crowd remained calm and patient as they sat underneath a big tent.
“It was a really good atmosphere out there,” she said.
A few people got overheated, but Heimerl said cold water was enough to help, and there were no serious medical issues.
Heimerl and the other volunteers said they are grateful for donations of water, and for all the sponsors who helped make the exhibit possible.
Ollig said he is also proud of the Winsted Summer Festival and the fire department.
“They took charge and made it happen,” he said. “I just had a small part.”
Going the extra mile
Dale Maus, chair of the Winsted Summer Festival committee, said he was impressed by the retired firefighters who gave the tours, including the two from NYC and one from Texas.
“They went the extra mile,” Maus said.
Heimerl agreed, explaining that because of the large number of people in line, they didn’t get done until about 9:45 p.m. The tours were only scheduled from 2 to 8 p.m., but the firefighters didn’t want to turn anyone down.
“They were very pleased with the attendance and the marketing we did,” Ollig said.
After the last tour Aug. 10, the firefighters enjoyed some brats saved from Bratbusters their first meal since the exhibit opened earlier that afternoon. The firefighters were also able to take in the fireworks show by Winsted Lake. They commented that it was better than the Macy’s 4th of July fireworks show in NYC, because they were able to get a lot closer.
Throughout the weekend, the NYC firefighters had an opportunity to tour the Winsted Fire Hall and visit other communities in the area.
The third and final day of tours, Aug. 12, was a busy finish to the weekend. At 7 p.m., there were about 150 people in line. Rather than split up into groups right away, Edwards went outside and shared stories with everyone underneath the tent for about 15 minutes. Groups then had an opportunity to do a shortened version of the tour.
When people got done with the tour, Heimerl said many had tears in their eyes.
“It did touch a lot of hearts,” she said.
Where were you Sept. 11, 2001?
While waiting to tour the 9/11 Never Forget Mobile Exhibit Aug. 10, a few people shared their memories of where they were 17 years ago, when they heard about the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Amy Meyer of Lester Prairie was three months pregnant and was suffering from morning sickness that day. She was getting ready for work at eBenX when her husband, Stacy, called and said to turn on the TV.
Stacy was already at work, in the 12-story Hartford building in Bloomington. By the time Amy got to her job, the TVs were on there, too.
The news was especially scary for Amy’s company, because some of the workers had been in New York City. They were flying home on a different plane when the attacks happened, and their plane was escorted by fighter jets to an Air Force base. After the emergency landing, passengers were briefed on what had happened, and were told to find rides home because all flights had been grounded.
One of the managers at eBenX had a sister who was in one of the hijacked planes. She died that day, along with her husband and their two children.
“It really hit us hard,” Amy said. “We were all just in shock.”
Randy Weibel of Winsted was working as a truck driver on 9/11. “I was on 1-35 listening to KQRS when they started talking about a plane crash,” he recalled.
Rhonda Schroeder of Eden Prairie remembers being home that morning, because it was her day off. She was having a cup of coffee and turned on the TV. The same terrifying image of a plane hitting the World Trade Center was on every station.
“I thought it was science fiction,” she recalled.
Jim Condon of Winsted was home caring for his wife, who was recovering from surgery. When Jim saw the plane hit on TV, his first thought was, “terrorists.” He said he has great respect for the rescue workers who had the courage to go inside those buildings and help others.
Larry Terzich of Monticello was an eighth-grader in Norwood at that time. He remembers passing by a TV after homeroom, but thought the scene was a movie. In first period, which was English class, he found out what had happened. Throughout the school day, some classes continued as normal, while other teachers concentrated on the news. Larry said his oldest son is now 10, and learned about the terrorist attacks in elementary school.