Remembering the Heroes of 9/11

Twenty years ago tomorrow, America was attacked on its own soil in a series of events that will forever be known as 9/11. Those of us who remember that awful day will never forget those whose lives were lost, the families and friends who were forever impacted and the first-responders and other heroes who were at the center of the devastation.

Today, we continue to honor those heroes from 20 years ago as well as a new generation of firefighters, paramedics and others who may have become inspired on that fateful day to serve others. We also celebrate new and emerging heroes such as healthcare personnel and other essential employees who are working to keep us all safe and healthy during the global pandemic.

On this 20th anniversary of the events of September 11, 2001, we also remember and honor the courage of those who perished on that catastrophic day.

The September 11th Memorial Tribute in Light 2014 New York City, by Anthony Quintano

The San José State community will never forget, for example, the Spartan alumnus – Captain Jason Dahl, ’80 Aeronautics Operations – who piloted United Flight 93. One can barely fathom the fortitude and courageous spirit it required for Captain Dahl and his crew (and several passengers) to confront the terrorists on-board in an attempt to overcome them and re-take control of the aircraft.

Although Flight 93 crashed onto a field in western Pennsylvania, experts have long maintained that because the aircraft did not reach the hijackers’ intended destination, many more lives would have been lost if not for the valiant efforts of Captain Dahl and others.

Each September 11 at 10:14am – the moment Flight 93 crashed down – faculty members, students and staff with SJSU’s aviation and technology program take a moment to honor Captain Dahl and reflect on his bravery and life.

In addition to Captain Dahl, other Spartans involved in 9/11 continue to make us proud as a campus community.

Meta Mereday, ’84 Advertising, happened to be on business in nearby New Jersey that day and went to Ground Zero to see if she could help. She later channeled her own emotional trauma in a positive way by founding Veterans Entrepreneurial Development Initiatives, which supports veteran-owned businesses. As described in an item last year in our Washington Square blog, Meta has continued to make positive contributions in ventures that explore the intersections of business and diverse communities. Much of her work can be traced back to that fateful 2001 day in Lower Manhattan and her urgent desire to help.

And our own Frank Belcastro, an SJSU UPD Captain, was serving as an NYPD Captain and Commanding Officer of a Borough Task Force on 9/11. He witnessed, first-hand, the havoc and horrors of that day, and in the days after 9/11 he was in command of Ground Zero security and recovery. Captain Belcastro was one of many first responders during that period whose uncommon valor helped save lives.

In a 2011 radio address, President Obama offered a straightforward but concrete suggestion for how we can best remember those who were taken from us that day. I appreciate his comment for its simplicity and for its alignment with SJSU values:

“Even the smallest act of service, the simplest act of kindness, is a way to honor those we lost, a way to reclaim that spirit of unity that followed 9/11.”

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