9/11 remembered locally: Monroe ceremony includes flag retirement, wreath-laying and more

Wright-Patterson Air Force Base employee says she ‘knew we were under attack.’

MONROE — One wasn’t born on Sept. 11, 2001 and the other will forever remember where she was during the deadliest terrorist act in history.

Despite their age and life experience differences, Allison Morris, 17 a senior at Monroe High School, and Nancy Hutton, 61, a retired office administrator in the logistics department at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, were moved by the 9/11 Remembrance Ceremony held Monday morning outside the Monroe City Building.

The event included a flag retirement ceremony by the Monroe Fire Dept. honor guard, wreath laying from police Chief Bob Buchanan and fire Chief David Leverage, a keynote address from police Capt. Brian Curlis, a three-round volley by the Monroe Police Dept. honor guard and musical performances by the Monroe High School Chorale Choir.

Ironically, much like the weather on Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001, this year’s ceremony was under bright blue skies.

Morris, a member of the choir, said the ceremony provided “a great opportunity to see how our country has progressed. Even because of those events I’m in a safer place. I get to grow up in a safer country.”

She has visited the 9/11 memorial in New York City, read about the terrorist attacks and listened as her parents told her about what “a horrible day that was,” she said.

Hutton, a Monroe resident, was working at WPAFB on Sept. 11, 2001 when a co-worker ran into the office and said a plane had crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center. They immediately turned on the TV news just before the second plan crashed into the center’s South Tower 16 minutes later.

She immediately thought: “Oh, my God we’re going to DELTA,” the highest level of security for the military.

Then she turned around and raced back into her office.

“I knew we were under attack,” she said.

Within minutes, she said, all 20,000 WPAFB employees were ordered off the base. She called that many employees exiting at the same time “a logistical nightmare.”

But Hutton stayed at work. She had to fill out paperwork that authorized all the contractors to remain on the base. Three days later, she returned to work. She signed up for the 6 a.m. shift in hopes of reducing her wait to enter through base security.

She said guards checked “every ounce of your car.”

During his address, Curlis relayed a story about a heroic volunteer New York City firefighter.

He said Welles Crowther, an equities trader, called his mother nine minutes after the South Tower was hit and left a message: “Mom, this is Welles. I wanted you to know that I’m OK.”

That was the last time his mother heard from him.

Crowther made his way to the 78th floor sky lobby, where he found a group of survivors, including a badly burned Ling Young, who worked on the 86th floor. He directed the people to the one working stairway. They followed him 17 floors down, where he dropped off the woman he was carrying before heading back upstairs to assist others.

By the time he returned to the 78th floor, he had a red bandana — given to him years before by his father —around his nose and mouth to protect him from the smoke. Crowther found another group of survivors, which included AON Corp. employee Judy Wein, who worked on the 103rd floor. She had a broken arm, cracked ribs and a punctured lung, Curlis said.

Crowther guided those to safety, then returned up the stairs to help others. His body was found in March 2002, alongside several firefighters and emergency workers bunched in a suspected command post in the South Tower lobby, Curlis said.

In 2006, Crowther, who was credited with saving at least 18 lives, was posthumously named an honorary New York City firefighter by Commissioner Nicholas Scarpetta.

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