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Vigil marks anniversary

9/12/2013

By RANDY GONZALES

By RANDY GONZALES

rgonzales@dailynews.net

A gentle rain started to fall at the start of Wednesday evening's brief ceremony to mark the 9/11 anniversary.

However, the sense of community spirit was not dampened, nor were the candles' flames at the candlelight vigil in front of Memorial Union on the campus of Fort Hays State University.

Approximately 100 people -- many of them students -- attended the 15-minute ceremony, which had speakers and the singing of the national anthem and patriotic songs.

The ceremony remembered the 12th anniversary of the terrorist attacks in 2001 in New York City and at the Pentagon.

Darrin Sack, Hays, was living in Salina then, and he was supposed to pick up his parents at the airport that day 12 years ago.

They were supposed to fly in from New York City, but they never made it to their flight and instead watched the events unfold from a bird's-eye view; they lived across the way from the Twin Towers, in Staten Island.

As for Sack, his girlfriend called and told him to turn on the TV. He saw the second plane hit the World Trade Center. Sack, who was in the Army at the time, said he was scared of what might happen next.

"I was in the military, so I knew they could be calling me," he said.

Sack, 46, was deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan after 9/11 and is retired now after 26 years in the service. His wife, Michelle, is in the National Guard and was in charge of the Color Guard for Wednesday's ceremony, which had a special meaning for him.

"Every time 9/11 hits, I remember it, and try to give thanks to the people who lost their lives, both in 9/11 and fighting the people who caused it," he said.

Sabrina Brown, a senior at FHSU from Canton, remembers that day 12 years ago, too.

"I was in fourth grade at the time," she said. "I remember I wasn't going to school that day because I didn't feel good. I remember waking up, and my grandmother was watching TV."

Brown's grandmother told her about the Twin Towers, and they just sat there and watched -- and saw the second plane hit.

"It was insane to sit there and watch the second plane come in, live," Brown said.

FHSU in the past marked 9/11 in the morning, when the terrorist attacks occurred. This was the first year for a candlelight vigil.

"It's a fitting end to Patriot Day," Ellis County Attorney Tom Drees said. "It's a chance to join with others who are remembering those events from 12 years ago.

"A lot of these people were pretty young back then when that happened. Those of us who are older remember distinctly where we were and what we were doing that day."

Drees remembers a person who was in the courthouse on business that day who was accompanied by his father -- who happened to work in the Pentagon.

"He was very shook up," Drees said.

On that sunny morning in 2001, it was work as usual. After the attacks, a TV was set up in Drees' office, and people in the courthouse would drop by to watch.

"Tried to conduct business as usual," Drees said. "It seems like yesterday."

Brown said she wanted to make sure and attend the ceremony.

"To me, it's always never forget," she said.

On Friday, FHSU students can remember 9/11 with a day of service by volunteering for United Way. To volunteer, students can email service@FHSU.edu.