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The Day Creek Howl

Remembering 9/11

From+left+to+right%3A%0ARon+Smith+%28RCFD%29%2C+Scott+Zbinden+%28LA+County+FD%29%2C+Jerry+Sillcocks+%28FDNY%29%2C+Mike+Bell+%28RCFD%29.+At+Ground+Zero%2C+shortly+after+9%2F11%2C+they+worked+on+the+pile+alongside+FDNY+members+and+were+available+to+listen+and+pray+with+firefighters+who+were+affected+by+the+tragedy.
From left to right:
Ron Smith (RCFD), Scott Zbinden (LA County FD), Jerry Sillcocks (FDNY), Mike Bell (RCFD). At Ground Zero, shortly after 9/11, they worked on the pile alongside FDNY members and were available to listen and pray with firefighters who were affected by the tragedy.

From left to right: Ron Smith (RCFD), Scott Zbinden (LA County FD), Jerry Sillcocks (FDNY), Mike Bell (RCFD). At Ground Zero, shortly after 9/11, they worked on the pile alongside FDNY members and were available to listen and pray with firefighters who were affected by the tragedy.

From left to right: Ron Smith (RCFD), Scott Zbinden (LA County FD), Jerry Sillcocks (FDNY), Mike Bell (RCFD). At Ground Zero, shortly after 9/11, they worked on the pile alongside FDNY members and were available to listen and pray with firefighters who were affected by the tragedy.

Nick L., Writer

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On the morning of September 11th, 2001, four planes were hijacked by the Islamic terrorist group, Al-Qaeda, and flown into iconic American buildings.  Two hit the World Trade Center in New York City, another struck the Pentagon in Virginia, and one, attempting to hit the United States Capitol, crashed in a field in Pennsylvania.  Nearly 3,000 people were killed in these attacks, and 6,000 more were injured.  For most of us at DCIS, we only know about the 9/11 tragedy through YouTube, images, and retellings from media.  On September 8th, 2016, the Howl met with retired Rancho Cucamonga fire chief, Mike Bell, who was at Ground Zero to witness the aftermath of the attack.  Chief Bell and several colleagues, drove for 44 hours and 3,000 miles straight to New York City, to help the people affected by 9/11.

It was Tuesday morning, September 11th, 2001, 6:00 AM.  Mike Bell was just getting out of bed, when he got a phone call from fellow fire captain Mike Redmond.  “Do you see what happened?” Redmond asked.  Bell, unaware of the terrorism occurring in New York, turned on the television to find that the World Trade Center was under attack.  Bell then called his friend, New York City firefighter Jerry Sillcocks, who quickly told him, “Mike, it’s terrible here.  I got to go.”  

Bell has a connection to the city of New York and their firefighters.  He had frequently visited New York, and met many of New York City’s firefighters, through Firefighters With Christ, a Christian firefighter association.  Because of the severity of the situation, and his connection to the city, Mike felt compelled to go to New York City.  “I wanted to respond.  Every firefighter is trained to respond to emergencies.  That’s what we do.  That’s our job,” Bell said.  But he was in California, 3,000 miles away from Ground Zero, and all air travel was suspended.

On September 13th, Bell drove 44 hours nonstop, straight to New York City, with his colleagues, Ron Smith, and Scott Zbinden.  Once in New York, Sillcocks, the head of Bell’s operation, appointed him to specific duties.  His first assignment was to attend the funeral of James Pappageorge, a firefighter who died in action during 9/11.  Pappageorge, along with 342 other firefighters, died in an effort to save those in the World Trade Center. Following the funeral, Bell prayed and counseled families and friends of victims.  Through this, he was able to connect with the people who’d lost others.  “If they found out we were firefighters, they would just open the doors and let us…listen to them.  And a lot of what we did was listen.  We just listened to stories, and the stories were incredible.  And we just listened.  That’s really what we did,” Bell said.  Although he wanted to remain with the victims’ families, he knew he had to get to Ground Zero.

Ground Zero was “a large pile of rubble.  If you look at the pictures, it doesn’t do it justice,” Bell said.  Before the plane crash, the Twin Towers had been two, 110-story buildings, once considered among the tallest buildings in the world, with  thousands of employees and offices full of furniture, carpet, doors, and office supplies.   “When those buildings came down and then everything settled into the piles, there was nothing left that was recognizable in any way shape or form.  You could not go, oh, that’s part of a computer, or that’s part of the door, or that’s part of a desk.  It was all dust.  Everything was ground to dust.  There was steel, the steel that was part of the building, and there was dust,” Bell said.  Everything else seemingly vanished.  

During his two weeks at Ground Zero, Bell dug through the dust and steel for live bodies alongside the firefighters. Sadly, none were found.  “They were hoping that there were still people alive.  But there were not,” said Bell.  

Bell returned to his home in Rancho Cucamonga after two weeks in New York City.  But, he revisited the city five additional times that year in support of the people who were still hurting from the devastation of 9/11.  Even now, Mike frequently goes back to New York, and was happy to see the World Trade Center reopen, after a long rebuilding process.  

The motto of 9/11 is “Never forget.”  For most of us at DCIS, 9/11 predates our birth.  Although we were not directly impacted by this event, our lives as Americans were forever altered.  We learned of the sadness, losses, and evil of this event.  But through individuals like Mike Bell, we also learn of love, sacrifice, and humanity.  We arose from this tragedy as a stronger nation.

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Remembering 9/11