Victims of 9/11 Terrorist Attacks Honored at Ocean City Tabernacle Ceremony

first_imgLocal police officers, firefighters and emergency personnel were honored Sunday during a ceremony at the Ocean City Tabernacle that marked the upcoming 15th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. By Donald WittkowskiSujo John thought he faced certain death as a hellish scene of flames, choking smoke and collapsing walls erupted around him on the 81st floor of the World Trade Center’s North Tower.Amid the chaos, John heard someone shout, “We’ve got to beat this fire,” leading to a frantic scramble to find an escape route and then a terrifying descent down a fire-filled stairway that took an hour and 20 minutes before he finally reached the ground floor.“One thing was common: the fear of death written so clearly and viscerally on everybody’s face,” John recalled.John recounted the horrors of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to a rapt audience of hundreds of people during a ceremony Sunday at the Ocean City Tabernacle that marked the upcoming 15th anniversary of that fateful day in U.S. history.The service also had the dual purpose of honoring the police officers, firefighters and other emergency personnel who died in the attacks, as well as recognizing the men and women in blue who protect Ocean City today.“Here in Ocean City, we have an exceptional public safety team,” Mayor Jay Gillian said during his remarks. “They go to work every day, willing to put their lives on the line in the service of others.”Led by two bagpipers, a procession of uniformed police officers, firefighters and rescue workers filed into the Tabernacle, greeted by warm applause from the audience.“When you walked in, I started to cry,” Paula Bender, the Tabernacle’s president and chief executive officer, told the group of first responders.Later, Bender hailed them as “our own local heroes.”Sujo John, who survived the attack, told the audience of the horrors that unfolded inside the North Tower of the World Trade Center.John recalled how New York City firefighters fought through the flames while climbing up the North Tower’s stairway in hopes of rescuing victims trapped on the upper floors. He was climbing down the same stairwell in the rush to save his own life.“We had no idea these brave men were literally making their way to their death,” John said, referring to the huge loss of life caused by the burning building’s collapse.John, born in India, had come to the United States just several months before the terrorist attacks to take a job with a technology company. He worked on the 81st floor of the North Tower, while his wife, Mary, had a job with an investment bank on the 71st floor of the World Trade Center’s South Tower.John told of how the ground shook violently and clouds of suffocating soot filled the air when the World Trade Center’s twin towers collapsed after being struck by the two hijacked passenger jets.He said at one point he confronted his own mortality and thought, “I’m going to die.”His miraculous survival was capped by the joy of finding out that his then-pregnant wife had lived, too. She was a bit late getting to work that morning, arriving after the second hijacked jetliner slammed into the South Tower.John told the Tabernacle’s audience that he will always remember hearing his cellphone ring and looking down to see his wife’s number displayed on his caller ID.“Her first words to me were, ‘Babe, are you alive?”’ he said.Amid the trauma of the attacks, John went through a spiritual awakening that led him to leave the corporate world and enter the evangelical ministry.Now, he has devoted his life to God and Christianity. He is an international motivational speaker and is also involved in a movement dedicated to freeing and rehabilitating victims of human trafficking.Bagpipers Sharon and Kyle Grasty, who are mother and son, played “Amazing Grace” while the names of the 9/11 victims were displayed on a projection screen.Altogether, about 3,000 people died in the 9/11 attacks. Many of them were firefighters and police officers. At Sunday’s service, bagpipers Sharon and Kyle Grasty, who are mother and son, played the mournful strains of “Amazing Grace” while the names of the victims scrolled down a projection screen on the Tabernacle’s stage.“Those names that were on that scroll are written down in history,” said John Taylor, worship leader for the services.Taylor, a retired law enforcement officer, then paid tribute to the police officers, firefighters and emergency personnel in the audience.“I want you to know that all of the people in this room, they support you and love you,” he said.Ocean City Fire Chief Chris Breunig said he and the other first responders who attended the ceremony were humbled and gratified to be honored in such a public way.Breunig also saluted the firefighters, police officers and all of the other victims who were killed in the terrorist attacks.“As time progresses, it’s going to be something that we will never forget,” he said. “We certainly will always recognize and honor the men and women who died that day.”last_img read more