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Remembering victims of 9/11

Folks from Huntingdon County proved they’ll “never forget” the events of Sept. 11, 2001, and those who lost their lives during a 9/11 remembrance ceremony Sunday at the Smithfield Fire Hall.

“(Sept. 11, 2001) was not just an attack on America; it was indeed an attack on the entire free world,” said Jay Buchanan, a member of the Standing Stone Detachment of the United States Marine Corps League and one of the organizers of Sunday’s service. “Our lives have never been the same since that terrible day and we pray it will never happen again.”

Buchanan and his wife, Elaine, also an organizer of the service, recalled the events as they occurred at the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and in a desolate field in Shanksville, Somerset County.

“The terrorists had a plan, a meticulous, well thought-out plant,” he said. “The targets were carefully chosen.”

He reminded the audience that all of the flights that day were loaded with the maximum amount of fuel and bound for California destinations.

E. Buchanan also read a poem written by Hanah Schoeckert, who was a 7th grader at the time of the 2001 attacks.

“American Airlines Flight 11 was the first jet commandeered by hijackers that fateful day 18 years ago,” she said.

“United Airlines Flight 175 was the second jet overtaken by hijackers Sept. 11, 2001,” said E. Buchanan, noting it struck the South Tower 18 minutes after the first plane hit. “As with Flight 11, it also left Boston full of fuel and headed to Los Angeles with 56 passengers, seven flight attendants and two pilots on board.”

It is estimated over 600 employees and rescue workers also died in the South Tower.

“Within one hour and 42 minutes, both 110-story towers collapsed to the ground, causing a partial or complete collapse of all of the other buildings in the World Trade Center complex,” she said.

“American Airlines Flight 77 was commandeered by five Al-Qaeda terrorists after it took off from Dulles Airport near Washington, D.C., headed for Los Angeles,” said Buchanan. “Its target was now the Pentagon.

“It was a strategic target for Al-Qaeda, not only as a military bastion for America, but also as a symbol of strength to the entire civilized world,” he continued.

J. Buchanan reminded those present that 56 passengers and two flight attendants died when the plane went down. In addition to those on board, another 125 civilian and military personnel died as a result of the crash.

Finally, to an isolated field in Pennsylvania,” said J. Buchanan. “A common field one day, a field of honor forever.”

Shortly after takeoff, hijackers took over United Airlines Flight 93 in flight.

“Realizing what was happening, the passengers and crew made a collective decision to rush the terrorists and try to retake the plane,” said J. Buchanan. “Their actions prevented the plane from reaching its intended target, the U.S. Capitol.”

At 10:06 a.m., Flight 93 crashed upside down in a field in Shanksville, killing all 33 passengers and 7 crew members.

“Sept. 11, 2001, began as an ordinary, late summer day, but ended in tragedy that we’ll never forget. Our lives would change forever,” said J. Buchanan.

Sunday’s service was also highlighted by musical numbers presented by the Huntingdon Area High School Marching Band, guitarist Anita Roseborough and the Huntingdon community choir, Music! Music! Music!, directed by Shirley McBrayer.

Boy Scouts from Troop 28 presented a memorial wreath in honor of all firefighters, first responders, police officers and others who came to the aid of the victims. The wreath was provided by St. James Lutheran Church and John and Barb Eastman.

Also Sundy, HAHS band director Jordan Canner played taps.

J. Buchanan also acknowledged Howard Reitenbaugh, who was unable to be present, for his work establishing a service in Huntingdon so that folks would not forget the sacrifices made Sept. 11, 2001.

“Howard felt it was important to provide a means by which that tragedy would not be forgotten,” said J. Buchanan. “We thank you, Howard, for keeping that day in our minds, and more importantly in our hearts and in our prayers.”

J. Buchanan also recognized David Camisa who responded to Ground Zero Sept. 11, 2001, and volunteered his services. Camisa resides in Orbisonia. He also thanked those who helped to make the event possible, including the financial contribution from Standing Stone VFW Post 1754 and commander Rick Henney.

Also Sunday, the Rev. Art Speck provided the invocation and the Rev. Cindy Lattimer presented the benediction.

The service marked the fourth year a singular observance has been held at the fire hall to memorialize Sept. 11, 2001.

Becky can be reached at bweikert@huntingdondailynews.com.

Veterans enjoy fellowship at Legion

Residents of the Hollidaysburg Veterans’ Home visited the William P. Spyker American Legion Post 520 in Alexandria Saturday for lunch and good conversation.

“We have World War II vets and Vietnam vets, and, unfortunately, a lot of the time they’re forgotten,” said Jodie McKenzie, therapeutic recreational service worker at the veterans’ home. “Other vets, like the American Legion and the VFW remember, though. So they really enjoy (events like these), and just feeling appreciated.”

The residential home, part of the Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (DMVA) whose philosophy is “We care for our veterans,” has outings every week and residents are big fans of being able to get out and about.

“I love going on these events,” said Air Force veteran Gary Greene, who is originally from Huntingdon. “It’s always good to come to the Legion.”

Saturday’s event is something the members of the Alexandria legion do twice each year. “We bring down a group of 15 to 20 veterans twice a year, we just feel it’s important to have the vets here who have served their countries,” said Jim Singer, commander of Post 520.

”It’s part of our organization, it’s just who we are. We get to sit and associate with them. They’ve been coming there pretty regularly, we get to know them, they get to call us by name. They like to share their stories.”

Singer recalled speaking to a veteran who served in the same area he did. ”I talked to a veteran who actually served in the same area that I served in in Vietnam, although we were there in different years,” he said. “They enjoy this event and so do we.”

McKenzie is pleased with what she sees as an increase in veteran awareness in the past few years, and credits a good part of that to the work of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

“I’m impressed with all the positive changes. They’ve really taken time to assess barriers for veterans and then to meet their needs, and created a lot of awareness,” she said.

“There are a lot of people who care,” said Mike Gassler, a Navy veteran from the home.

“When I was down in Texas about 15 years ago I ran into a DAV (Disabled American Veterans) over at the VA there, and he was super gung-ho whatever he could get out of the VA he was going to get. He helped push through my application for non-service connected pension. You hear so many stories about the people taking three to six months, maybe a year before their sub goes through. A month in a half after I put my paperwork in, I had my letter for the decision and my first check.”

McKenzie has noted an increase of veteran-related posts on social media in recent times.

“Now you can see so many posts on Facebook raising awareness of veterans’ mental health issues. I love it,” she said.

The recognition from organizations like the American Legion and the VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) doesn’t go unnoticed.

“We really appreciate all of the support,” said Gassler.

Nathan can be reached at nwoods@huntingdondailynews.com.

Musician honored at annual folk gathering

The 15th Greenwood Furnace Folk Gathering was a time to honor the 2019 Pennsylvania Heritage Musician for their contributions to music in Pennsylvania.

This year’s honoree was Patsy Hollobaugh of Zion, who has played the piano since she was a child, and she learned to play by observing the keys on the player piano.

Linda Littleton, one half of the folk music duo Simple Gifts, co-hosts of the event, said Hollobaugh was honored for “contributing to the musical fabric of Pennsylvania.”

Hollobaugh said she first played professionally when she went to the Pleasant Gap Fire Hall one evening, and the band was looking for someone to play.

“They asked if anyone knew how to play the piano, because their piano player had canceled on them,” she said. “My sister helped me to get on stage, and I played for them. They told me that I was to keep playing, and they weren’t asking the other piano player back.”

In addition to playing the piano, Hollobaugh would also sing with her sisters in church on Sundays, at at one point, she also played the accordion until she had a family of her own.

“I had to sell it so we could help pay for bills,” she said.

Hollobaugh would often play at square dances held in the area Saturday evenings, where at least 275-300 people would be in attendance.

The leader of the band, however, wouldn’t let her play exactly how she wanted to play.

“He said I wasn’t allowed to hit any more keys than I had to,” said Hollobaugh, noting his style was old fashioned at the time, and she was just 15 years old and was in a band with men who would be the same age as her grandfather and father.

Hollobaugh, the fifth of nine children in her family, also grew up on a dairy farm that was mostly run by the women of the family while the men had outside jobs.

“Square dances on the weekends were the way we could have some fun,” she said.

Hollobaugh continued with her music after she had her five children, and she also worked outside of the home during this time.

When Littleton asked her how she balanced it all, Hollobaugh said it was simple.

“Music wasn’t hard for me, but as I worked for 31 years and took care of my kids, I knew I couldn’t do music all the time, but I did it when I could,” she said.

As she was honored, guests as well as Hollobaugh’s family members were also treated to a mini concert, and 2012 Pennsylvania Heritage Musician Leo Steinbeiser said watching her play is like eating candy.

“It’s been amazing to play with her,” he said.

Hollobaugh was elated to receive this honor, and considered it a family reunion of sorts, as many of her siblings as well as children and grandchildren were in attendance to see her receive this honor.

“This is a celebration,” said Hollobaugh. “Thank you so much for this; I really appreciate it.”

Local PSP cadets graduate from academy

Friday, 98 cadets graduated from the State Police Academy in Hershey, including Zachary McKeehan and Gregory Kurtz of Huntingdon County.

“We’re certainly proud of the 98 graduates. Graduating from the academy is an incredible accomplishment,” said Ryan Tarkowski, communications director at the Pennsylvania State Police. “It’s 28 weeks of intense physical and classroom training. They eat, sleep, work and live at the academy. It’s a tremendous commitment on their part and on the part of their families.”

“I’m super excited,” said Kurtz. “I’ve been working towards it for the past couple years.

The training process is grueling, but the cadets learned to rally together. ”You don’t have much freedom there. You learn the trooper way pretty quickly. There was a 120 of us starting out, you get to know each other and bond as one unit and come together to achieve goals. You go from not knowing each other to making life long friends.”

This year’s ceremony at the Scottish Rite Cathedral in Hershey marked the 156th graduating cadet class.

McKeehan speaks to the intensity of life at the academy.

“It’s brutal,” he said. “Driving, live scenarios, running, and most times you go for two or three weeks in a row. It’s high adrenaline and high stress. I think it’s fun. Every day is different as a trooper. You’ll never be bored. I use to be a civil engineer, but it just wasn’t for me. My older brother was a trooper, so I knew it was more exciting, hands on work. It was a better fit for me.”

McKeehan spoke on behalf of the graduating class and received The American Legion Award, which is presented to the most outstanding cadet in recognition of all-around academic, physical, ethical and moral qualifications.

“We chose this career because we saw a need in our communities and we knew that need wouldn’t go away unless we stepped in. An instructor in the beginning said it,” said McKeehan. “In this career, the time will come when you will have to save a life, take a life, or even give your own life. And if you’re not willing to do that, then this life is not for you.

I believe our class can impact the world in ways we used to only dream of. There are things in our communities and in the world that surrounds us that we want to see change and they will only change when we act,” he said.

McKeehan urged his classmates to, “Love your families every day like it was your last. Be passionate with what you do. Always hold each other and the ones around you up. Pray for one another, and always remember the family you have here.”

Both Trooper Kurtz and Trooper McKeehan have been assigned to Troop G in Lewistown and will first report for duty next Monday.

Nathan can be reached at nwoods@huntingdondailynews.com.

New event will help commemorate 9/11

Juniata College will host a Kids’ Carnival from 4-6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 11, at Portstown Park in Huntingdon, in commemoration of 9/11.

The free public event is spearheaded by the College’s Office of Community Engagement and the Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion.

“This event is an opportunity for the community to pause and reflect on the elements that unite us,” said Cynthia Merriwether-deVries, associate professor of sociology and assistant director of the Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. “9/11 made us aware of the importance of understanding that we are all a part of this nation.”

The federal government has designated Sept. 11 is a National Day of Service of Remembrance, encouraging citizens to volunteer within their communities to honor those who lost their lives on that tragic day, as well as the first responders.

“I think it’s really important to be involved in a 9/11 Day of Service and Remembrance event as a young person who was only 2 years old at the time of the attacks,” said Emily Dowler, a junior who is working to coordinate the event. “I don’t have any memories of the attacks, however, the involvement of our youth and families is important because it allows us to commemorate and remember the lives lost through creating spaces for community building.”

At the event, children will be able to meet local emergency personnel and explore their vehicles and equipment

Alongside Juniata College students and staff, local organizations including Huntingdon County United Way, Huntingdon Kiwanis Club, Huntingdon County Library, ACT, and the Huntingdon County Salvation Army will furnish food, games, face painting, prizes and fun activities for children and their families to enjoy.

“It’s exciting to see the kind of response we’ve seen from other organization who want to participate,” said Sarah Worley, associate professor of communication and director of community-engaged teaching and learning. “The non-profit support has been amazing, which is the only reason we’ve been able to put this on for free. We also recognize it’s an opportunity for for community building, a space for people who might not normally interact with each other to come together to commemorate the people who lost their lives.”

Dowler wants the event can become an annual occurrence, not only to remember those who lost their lives, but to acknowledge those who risk their lives to protect others.

“We also want to recognize this event as an opportunity to thank our first responders,” she said. “We will have a table to write thank you letters and we will be delivering them to our local first responders and law enforcement officials after the event.”

The hope is that in remembering and reflecting on the tragic events of 9/11 we can build communities strong enough to withstand the trials ahead.

Nathan can be reached at nwoods@huntingdondailynews.com.