December 5, 2021

Cortland ceremony remembers 9/11 terror attacks

"Nothing was going to be the same"

Travis Dunn/Staff Reporter

Retired Col. Kevin Forney, left, talks about his experiences during and after 9/11 during a Wednesday morning ceremony at Courthouse Park in Cortland in this Cortland Standard file photo from 2019.

The morning ceremony Wednesday in Courthouse Park came 18 years after the events of Sept. 11, 2001, but it brought back vivid memories.

State Sen. James Seward (R-Milford) was in Manhattan that morning to deliver a speech that would never happen. When he learned that a plane had hit the World Trade Center, Seward wasn’t sure what to think. “I, like so many, thought this was some horrible accident,” he said.

But then the second plane hit, and chaos ensued. Seward was rushed from the scene. He made it out covered in dust, but while he and thousands of others were fleeing, he saw police and emergency responders doing exactly the opposite — rushing toward the smoking towers, determined to save the lives of survivors.

Local police, firefighters and emergency responders were among those in attendance Wednesday, as well as veterans, National Guard soldiers, local politicians, residents and students from Cortland, McGraw and Cincinnatus.

This year’s featured speaker, Ret. Col. Kevin Forney, went beyond focusing on Sept. 11 itself, spending much of his remarks addressing before and especially after the event, as he shared his experiences as commanding officer of the first National Guard battalion to participate in Operation Noble Eagle and Operation Atlas, the unprecedented efforts to aid local police and emergency responders in Manhattan following the attacks.

“We were securing an enormous active crime scene,” Forney said.

He talked about the 18-hour shifts, hard work and cramped sleeping quarters his soldiers endured during the operation, as life in New York gradually returned to normal, even though “everyone knew that nothing was going to be the same,” he said.

Travis Dunn

ABOVE: The local honor guard stands at ease during Wednesday’s ceremony at Courthouse Park.

Mayor Brian Tobin also shared brief remarks at the event.

“We all lost family on that day, because an attack on one American is an attack on all Americans,” Tobin said.

The Wednesday event commemorated four people with Cortland connections who either died on Sept. 11., 2001, (Kevin Bracken, George William Morell and Amy King), or died as a result of adverse health effects from exposure to the crash site (Luis Alvarez). The 9/11 memorial at Courthouse Park, which is composed of relics from the World Trade Center, also includes bricks in honor of those four people that were dedicated by local friends, family and coworkers.

Boy Scout leader Mike Homrighaus said he found the morning’s event “very impressive.”

“It was particularly interesting listening to Col. Forney talk about all those things that happened after 9/11,” Homrighaus said. “Unless you were in New York, you wouldn’t know.”