Updated: Jul 24, 2022
VoxPopuli reached out to several leaders of the community and asked them what the Sept. 11 attacks and their aftermath means to them 20 years later. Here are their reflections.
Congresswoman Val Demings, District 10 On September 11th, 2001, I was at Orlando International Airport, commanding the Orlando Police’s Airport Division. I will never forget the feeling of that day and how it changed how we looked at the world. For me, it was a reminder of how critical our work was to keep every American safe. In the years since then – both as Orlando Police Chief and as a Member of the House Homeland Security Committee overseeing federal efforts to stop domestic terrorism – I have often thought of those we lost that day and the bravery and sacrifice of so many first responders. As we recognize 20 years since the attacks, I hope that you will join me in saying a prayer for the victims and their families, for peace, and for the safety and security of all Americans.
Kamia Brown, State Representative, District 45 As we approach the 20th anniversary of September 11th, we continue to see and experience the impact on our daily lives. For those who lived through this infamous day, we can all remember it well, as if it were only yesterday. In the aftermath of this tragedy, our nation and its citizens have become stronger and more resilient. There is a determination to never forget the events of September 11th. Today, we see increased security at airports, in airplanes with cockpit security measures and throughout most modes of transportation. As a community, we now live by the mantra, “If you see something, say something.” It is forever ingrained in each of us to be aware not only of our surroundings, but others who may pose a threat. We must never forget the events of September 11th, or those who perished. For the families of those directly impacted and who lost loved ones, we offer support and continued prayers.
Geraldine Thompson, State Representative, District 44
On September 11, 2001, I was attending a meeting and set to make a presentation to the Valencia College Board of Trustees when members began to whisper and the meeting was abruptly adjourned. That abruptly canceled meeting was symbolic of the loss of my feeling safe and insulated as an American.
John Rees, Winter Garden Mayor
The date of 9/11 will forever be in our hearts and minds as Dec. 7 is. It has affected, and will continue to affect, the way we travel and the involvement our country will have in the world. Listening to the stories of our first responders, I think, has made people take notice and appreciate to higher degree the job they do.
Joseph McMullen, Oakland Town Commissioner, Seat 4
Since 9/11 more Americans seem to be more involved with major challenges that affect us all on a national level. The part that scares me is that we are not together as one. If we disagree on a subject matter, then you are an enemy. While in 2001, I saw a strong united front against those who wish to cause harm to America, now I see too much infighting among AMERICANS.
I recall that fateful day, the horror that unfolded
across our television screens, and the tragic loss
of 2,996, with more than 25,000 injured. — Ron Mueller
Colin Sharman, Winter Garden City Commissioner, District 4
I distinctly remember where I was when the planes hit the World Trade Center. It is something that I will never forget. I believe it has helped us all to remember to always value our first responders; their actions on 9/11 showed us what they place on the line every day in America.
Larry B. Brinson, Sr., Ocoee City Commissioner, District 1 If nothing else, the events of 9/11/2001 have shown us that proactivity costs money, while reactivity costs lives. As I thought about 9/11 on 9/11, my vocabulary escaped me. I was truly at a loss for words. I initially thought, “How could this have happened on American soil?” Though I have since come to realize that, on American soil, we were not proactive, we were reactive. I hope we have learned to be even more attentive to information conduits. Afterwards, my thoughts were simple: we needed to be about the business of finding the person(s) behind this act and have justice be done.
Ron Mueller, Winter Garden City Commissioner, District 2
When asked on how does 9/11 continue to shape America, I recall that fateful day, the horror that unfolded across our television screens, and the tragic loss of 2,996, with more than 25,000 injured. Even today, thousands of first responders continue to face life threatening illnesses from the dust and debris of the tower collapses. As an outcome, American foreign policy has forever changed. Just days ago, American troops left Afghanistan, a terrorist-sponsoring country where Osman bin Laden masterminded one of the most horrific attacks, not only on America, but across the world. In a 20-year war, 2,461 American service members have died, 3,846 U.S. contractors, 1,144 Allied service members, 444 aid workers, 72 journalists, 66,000 Afghan national military and police, 51,191 Taliban and opposition fighters, and 47,275 Afghan civilians. Each of those deaths ripples across family, friends, and neighbors. So on 9/11, I do not think about the inconvenience of standing in airport screening lines or needing a passport to go to Canada. I think of the lives lost and the lives affected from that day 20 years ago to today and the 172,403 people who perished, some in sacrifice to their country, others who had their lives violently taken from them. It can feel helpless, but right now, there are men and women who responded to the towers' collapse and the burning Pentagon who suffer cancer and other life-altering medical issues. We can help them! We can give to the Feel Good Foundation, which helps our first responders (www.feelgoodfoundation.com) and continue to push our elected representatives to ensure that funds are available through the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2010. Combining this charity with federal funds will ensure that those that give so much the face of tragedy, will not suffer alone. Even today, 20 years later, we can make a difference.
Mark A. Maciel, Winter Garden City Commissioner, District 3 From a city management perspective, the changes in our methods, procedures and policies are significant. For example, the city can no longer publish certain information, maps and documents regarding public utilities. Prior to 9/11 you could find details regarding our water and sewer supply locations on our website or publicly available maps. In light of terrorist threats, those details, as well as other things, need to be carefully controlled. You need to be cognizant that seemingly innocuous data could be exploited by terrorists.
John Peek, Chief of Police, Oakland
As we approach the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, I feel the angst Americans once felt has waned as we have a new generation who never knew its true impact on us as a nation. As a police chief, I know police departments across the country seem to be over-represented with veterans. For those of us who served overseas in various conflicts for the last 20 years, it remains a life-defining moment that none of us can ever forget. As the years have gone by and the wars are beginning to end, the public’s interest seems to have receded. For those who believe that we, as a country, can move on into the next phase of history, I would remind everyone, foreign terrorism still remains an issue for the United States and the world at large. Vigilance is the price of freedom.
Melissa S. Myers, candidate for State Representative, District 45
9/11 was a day where it forced the entire country to pause. It no longer mattered about race or what side of the tracks we were raised. At the forefront of our minds, we were in a panic to ensure that our loved ones, first responders, and country were safe. We faced the same pain, the same turmoil, the same loss. That day we became one. Every year when we honor those who lost their lives in the horrific tragedy of 9/11 that robbed our country of peace of mind, we take that same pause igniting that sense of togetherness becoming one again.