Flags for the fallen

Locals mark 10-year anniversary of Sept. 11
By: Laura Newell Telegraph staff writer
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This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and many locals are remembering what the day means to them. Terry McNeil, 64, is the owner of T.D.M. Insurance Services in Folsom and has lived in Folsom since 2004. In 2001, McNeil was the vice president of ABM Industries, Inc., a provider of building maintenance and facility services to companies across the U.S. McNeil was the person responsible for national risk management. “We had 850 people working at the World Trade Center from ABM,” McNeil said. “Seventeen of our people were killed on Sept. 11 and more than 100 people were injured.” Employees included janitors, elevator operators, lighting operators and building engineers. McNeil said he was working in San Francisco at the time and when it happened, they called him from the scene. “They told me, ‘Turn on your T.V., the World Trade Center has been hit,’” McNeil said. “I flew out the first chance I could and the first thing I did was visit people in the hospital. … I was there the Thursday after the attack. I was down at ground zero early to get cleaning crews out to the building.” He said there was a lot of chaos. “The first thing I noticed in the hallways of the hospital were hand-written letters asking, ‘Have you seen my dad? We don’t know where my dad is.’ Some of my employees had heart-wrenching stories,” McNeil said. “One woman I talked to said she was devastated because she was sure her husband was dead. They both worked in the elevators. “Later, I visited the next hospital over, and met a man saying he was sure his wife was dead. It was her husband,” McNeil added. “Being able to connect them was such a touching and emotional moment. … I was honored to listen and be in a position to do significant things for the people that worked in our company.” He also described the hardest part — when his risk management staff called families to find the insured workers, and family members said they didn’t know where they were because their family members were not found. “This was a $100 million claim,” he said. “When this happened, I was primarily responsible to head the claim and the insurance of all those people.” He said every moment of being at ground zero after the attacks still hold very vivid memories for him. He noted he does not speak of the time very often because it was so devastating. He explained staying calm while talking to the injured people and families was the only way to get his job done. “I was a combat veteran in my early years,” McNeil said. “While working after Sept. 11, I was calm and reminded myself that no one was shooting at me. I couldn’t allow my emotional impact to get to me and stop me from getting my job done. He said every year the day comes around, people think of the day differently. “The people in New York view this very differently than the people here,” McNeil said. “This is an event for us, but they lived it. They hate this day.” He said he is still in disbelief that it happened. “I still have a hard time accepting the World Trade Center is gone,” McNeil said. “It was a real place to me. I’ve been through every nook and corner of that building, and it was a very secure and well-made building. I guess it showed me that we are never as big as we think we are. If the world trade center could fall down in an hour and a half, than it proves everything else made by man is simply material.” Robyn Toy, El Dorado Hills firefighter and paramedic, was fighting a fire on Sept. 11. “I was out on a large wild land fire when it happened,” Toy said. “So we were not able to hear a lot about it until we returned a couple days later. “Driving back home from the fire, I saw flags in front of everyone’s house and I knew something profound had happened,” Toy said. “Then the first rain of the season started and I’ll never forget the feeling. It was a moment of realization for me. That’s when it hit me how devastating everything was. I knew it was something I would never forget.” She said as a firefighter, it made her more aware of the impact of her job and how dangerous it can be. As a citizen, she said it made her more aware for her surroundings. “It really enhanced my sense of pride as a firefighter because so many firefighters did not hesitate to go in and fight that day,” Toy said. “As a fire fighter, we don’t think this could be our last fire, we just go in. This is our profession, to help people.” Folsom Fire Capt. Clint Madden and firefighter Caprice Huguenot were also working on the day of Sept. 11. They said someone called and told them to turn on the TV because planes were flying into the World Trade Center. “This day didn’t impact us more than anyone else,” Madden said. “There were a lot of people from different walks of life who were affected. That incident was so massive it impacted everyone.” He said the biggest change for firefighters was the dramatic changes to national security. Huguenot, a mother, said the hardest thing for her was explaining the events to her kids. “I remember it affected me when I saw the 9/11 memorial at the State Fair,” she said. “I have two small kids and took them over to see it. Then I became sick to my stomach when my kids asked, ‘Mommy, is that what you do?’ The hardest thing is telling them this is what I go to do everyday at work.” The firefighters said they could not imagine losing as many coworkers as they did on Sept. 11. “I couldn’t even imagine being put in their situation and have to be there after Sept. 11,” Huguenot said. “The oncoming shift had to return to their station after losing an entire crew. “I get emotional thinking about it. Just the thought alone of losing an entire crew is devastating,” she said. “We lose one person here and there for various reasons, but to lose an entire crew is unimaginable.” * * * IN THE KNOW Sunday, Sept. 11 events • Stop and Remember with one minute of silence at 10 a.m. our time. For more information, e-mail or call (202) 224-3224. • Run to remember with your local fire and law enforcement agencies at 4th Street and Capital Mall in downtown Sacramento. Race day schedule includes 6:45 to 8:45 a.m. race day registration and packet pick-up open, 9:11 a.m. a 5K run/walk begins and 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. is a tribute remembrance event and concert. For more information and registration, visit • Memorial service at 9:30 a.m. and 11 a.m. at Rolling Hills Christian Church, 800 White Rock Road, El Dorado Hills. Free. The fire department staff will attend the service. For more information, call (916) 939-3527. • A prayer service from 2 to 3 p.m. with a reception following at the Divine Savior Catholic Church, 9079 Greenback Lane, Orangevale. Service features an “All Faiths Prayer Service” to reflect and share with others how people have been called to bring peace to the world. For more information, call (916) 989-7400.