Roger and Carol Whitford continued the annual tradition of honoring their son Mark and all 2,977 people who died during the terrorist attacks Sept. 11, 2001, by holding a ceremony at their Lewes-area home.
Mark was one of 343 firefighters to lose their lives that fateful day. A member of Fire Department of New York's Engine 23, Mark arrived with his crew after the second plane hit, and they entered the south tower to fight the fire. They reached the 21st floor before the tower collapsed.
Chris Whitford, Mark’s brother, was training with the U.S. Army Reserve in Staten Island, N.Y., when the planes struck the Twin Towers. About an hour earlier, he was finishing his overnight shift at the NYPD's First Precinct, just blocks from the World Trade Center. An engine that fell from one of the jets landed in the spot where he typically parked his car.
Upon learning what was happening, he quickly made his way to the Staten Island Ferry to go back to Manhattan to help. Chris spent hours searching through the thick dust that blanketed downtown after both towers collapsed. He eventually came upon his brother's engine. It was empty; the firefighters had already rushed into the buildings.
He continued to search for his brother and other survivors through the night and well into Sept. 12.
“Out of nowhere, a monarch butterfly flew into my face,” he recalled, remembering he wondered how a butterfly could survive in such harsh conditions. “And at that moment, I just knew he was gone.”
Nancy Seddio was working as a doctor in Manhattan in 2001. She was alerted to what was happening when one of her patients walked into her office covered in soot.
“He pointed to the TV and said, ‘I was there,’” she recalled.
She said it is incredibly important to never forget what happened that day.
“I often think that when all of us are no longer here, the 2,977 heroes will become nothing more than names on a list,” she said. “That is why we must make sure this doesn’t happen. We must make sure that future generations understand the profound acts of heroism that I witnessed, that we witnessed, and the profound trauma that I experienced, that we experienced.”
Lee Murphy, a Republican candidate for Congress, told his story of working as an Amtrak train conductor traveling from Philadelphia to New York City’s Penn Station on Sept. 11, 2001. When the train reached Newark, N.J., he said, there were rumblings among the riders that a plane had hit one of the Twin Towers, but not much else was known. By the time the train was about to cross the Hudson River, he said, he knew something strange was happening.
“We got a clear view of Lower Manhattan. I saw a big explosion and smoke coming from the towers,” he said. “I think it registered at that time that something out of the ordinary was happening that day.”
Upon entering the tunnel under the Hudson, he said, he held his breath.
“I didn’t know what to expect when we got into New York City,” he said.
When they arrived in Penn Station, he recalled, his passengers disembarked and went about their business as if it were a normal day. But it didn’t take long for that to change.
He remembers walking out to 7th Avenue and seeing people walking opposite their normal direction. Not much later, Penn Station was locked down and the public was not allowed to enter.
“At 12 noon on that day, there was not a soul in Penn Station,” he said.
By early afternoon, they started loading people on the train to take them out of the city.
“As we left, I went through the train and it was just so so solemn. Everybody had their heads bowed,” he said. “I’ll never forget one of my dear friends who rode the train every day with me who worked at the World Trade Center towers. He had a suit on and was covered with ash from head to toe. He looked at me and said, ‘Lee, I didn’t think I’d ever see you again.’”
When he arrived back at 30th Street Station in Philadelphia that night, he said, he remembers seeing many families reunited. Everyone was hugging.
“I went home to my family that day and hugged them too,” he said.