Letterkenny speaker recalls his experience at Ground Zero

September 12, 2004|by BONNIE H. BRECHBILL

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Every day, Capt. John Brooks of the Salvation Army Corps in Chambersburg looks at an aerial photograph taken of Ground Zero on Sept. 12, 2001.

"Our relief vehicle is in the photo," Brooks said. "I don't hold anger in my heart. But I want to remember that we have no control over tomorrow. Everything we know can be gone in an instant."

Brooks oversaw the relief effort from Franklin County at Ground Zero for several days following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.


"Fear was rampant, there were roadblocks at every corner," he recalled of his trip to New York several hours after the attacks. "What you didn't see on television was that there was an 8-foot fence around Manhattan."

Eighteen to 24 inches of dust covered everything.

"It seemed as though the world had stopped turning," Brooks said. "There was fruit left in the scales of fruit vendors along the street."

Brooks spoke at a service by The United Churches of the Chambersburg Area Saturday in remembrance of the victims of the terrorist attacks. About 60 people attended the service in the Letterkenny Chapel on the grounds of the Letterkenny Army Depot.

Brooks said he and his wife entered St. Peter's Catholic Church, around the corner from Ground Zero, and discovered a puddle of blood in front of the altar.

"The chaplain had died there after being carried in by firefighters," Brooks said. "We cleaned it up, and prepared the church so they could have services."

Brooks said he considers the attacks acts of cowardice, and that he forever was changed by the events of three years ago.

"How can men do such an awful thing?" Brooks said. "I don't know. We have to get past that with faith, hope and love. We must never forget those who poured out their lives, people who showed faith, hope and love. I was privileged to stand shoulder to shoulder with those men and women."

Members of Charles Nitterhouse VFW Post 1599 posted colors and held a brief patriotic ceremony outside after the service.

Post member Bill Knarr, 81, of Chambersburg, a Navy veteran of World War II, spoke about the passengers of United Flight 93 who died near Shanksville, Pa., on Sept. 11.

"Remember the people on Flight 93 who knowingly sacrificed their lives," Knarr said. "They demonstrated what patriotism is all about. They knew they were going to be victims, and they took it a step further.

"They laid down their lives to avoid many other deaths. That plane was going to go into the White House or the Capitol, and they knew that. They were terrific people, just terrific."

Knarr played "Taps" on the bugle at the conclusion of the outside ceremony.

"This is something I can do to further remind people of the sacrifices made by their countrymen," he said.

Milly Dean of Chambersburg said that she watched shows on PBS all week "about the towers and the terrorism. I've always wanted to come to a service at this chapel. I appreciated the service very much."

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