ELLSWORTH — “Nearly 3,000 lives were callously taken by an attack on our nation,” said Ellsworth Fire Department Capt. Daryl Clark during a ceremony at the Fire Department Saturday to mark the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
“Three hundred and forty-three of those were firefighters who expected to go home to their families that day,” Clark said. “Yes, the scars of 9/11 are forever, but so too are our attempts to remember the people, the events and the legacies left behind.”
The ceremony included an introduction by Ellsworth Fire Chief Scott Guillerault, who commented that many in his department were children when the attacks occurred.
“We think it’s important every year we remember,” Guillerault said. “It’s a very important event that happened to our country that brought us all together.”
“For me, it’s about never forgetting,” the chief said. “Over time, these events become footnotes. They don’t understand what never forget means.”
“When we say ‘never forget,’ we never forget,” said Guillerault. “We don’t know what the future holds. We know what kind of tragedy can happen.”
Dr. John Tyler of Blue Hill, who at the time had been a physician at Crozer-Chester Medical Center in Pennsylvania, spent a day working at Ground Zero — primarily caring for construction workers who were clearing away debris.
Tyler would have spent more time in New York, but his father had a stroke and later died, an unexpected casualty of the attacks.
John William Tyler had been watching the TV news and saw the broadcast of the planes flying into the World Trade Center towers, his son recalled.
“My father was a pilot, a B24 pilot flying out of the Aleutians in the Second World War,” Tyler said. His father’s plane was shot down over Japan after having drifted into Russian airspace and he spent 12 to 18 months at a prisoner of war camp in Russia, the physician said.
“He saw the planes come into the tower,” Tyler said. “He was so upset by it he had a hypertensive stroke. He was hospitalized in Lancaster, Pa. When I left the site, I drove to the hospital to meet with my family to see how he was doing. He never really came back and he died.”
Tyler wasn’t part of any particular group to help out in New York.
“I wanted to help in any way that I could,” the former Maine Maritime Academy doctor said. “What I really found was that the circuits were all tied up.” Literally. “There wasn’t any way to even get on a voicemail for anyone.”
“I was going to say, ‘Well, it was worth a try,’ but I couldn’t sleep with all that going on,” said Tyler. “At 3 or 4 in the morning, I decided to drive up to New York and see what I could do.”
Tyler became part of a contingent of about five care providers, including medics, a medical student and a hospice worker, “plodding along,” as he said. “We were walking through all the debris in the streets.”
They ended up at medical triage and would soon begin caring for people on the scene. This was the day after, on Sept. 12.
“It was mainly people building roads so they could take ambulances down when they found the bodies and retrieve the bodies and take them to Brooks Brothers,” Tyler said. The men’s retailer shop had been set up as a morgue.
“The only thing people talked about was retribution,” said Tyler. “They were angry. They were all angry. It was a real experience.”
Tyler ended up being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder from the experience, compounded by the loss of his father.
There were nightmares.
One scene that kept coming up in Tyler’s nightmares was a five- or six-story parking garage that his group passed on one of the abandoned streets. The side of the parking garage structure had fallen away. The garage had lots of vehicles, empty of course, with blinking lights.