Memories of 9/11 nightmare still fresh in witnesses’ minds

DOVER— Sept. 11 isn’t an easy day for David Larsen.

“It was a rough time,” he said.

Mr. Larsen was a correctional officer at Rikers Island when he witnessed first-hand the collapse of one of the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City.

“On the far end of Rikers Island you can have a perfect view of the Manhattan skyline,” he said. “I was down there with a friend of mine and we actually (saw) the second plane come in and hit the second building.”

Now, 14 years later, men and women across the country continue to honor the victims of the attack as well as those who protect us, such as emergency medical personnel, firefighters, police officers and military members.

Mr. Larsen, now a public safety officer at Delaware Technical Community College’s Terry Campus, shared his story during a memorial ceremony at the campus on Friday morning.

When Mr. Larsen was called into search and rescue duty on Sept. 12. he said it was a surreal feeling.

“I wouldn’t wish that on anybody,” he said. “It’s always a difficult time.

“There was one person we found that we knew. One of the hardest times was when people were walking around New York with posters of their family members with pictures and we couldn’t help them.”

Rebecca Craft, coordinator for veterans and service members, said she felt honored when Mr. Larsen said he was willing to share his story.

“He never came to the ceremonies in the past,” Ms. Craft said. “He has always come up to me and apologized for not being there.

“He never really told me why. But last year he pulled me aside and he told me everything and that he couldn’t bring himself to come.

“About two months ago I just figured I ask,” Ms. Craft added. “I told him that I understand if you don’t want to, but he said that he would be able to do it.”

Nearly 3,000 lives were taken on that day in 2001, including 37 Port Authority Police Department personnel, 23

New York police officers and eight additional Emergency Medical Technicians and paramedics from private units.
Also 343 New York firefighters and 411 emergency workers were killed on that day.

The ceremony Friday also included a Dover Air Force Base Honor Guard raising the U.S. flag to half-staff and a bell-ringing ceremony to commemorate the 11 individuals with ties to Delaware who died during the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Ms. Craft said it’s important to pay tribute to those who died and also those who rose to respond to the attacks.

“I had a friend that I thought worked on one of the towers knowing that he transferred to Princeton three months earlier,” Ms. Craft said.

“Just knowing what it felt like that morning and worrying for him and for all those other people, it’s not something that can go away.”

“People say they remember where they were when Kennedy died and this is another one of those moments,” Ms. Craft added.

But Mr. Larsen still has a tough time reflecting on the events of that day.

“It’s not easy,” he said. “I don’t like talking about it much. I still close my eyes today and have visions. Like the old saying goes ‘All gave some, some gave all.’ It’s true, because I left a piece of me down there.”

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