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Sept. 11 first responder speaks at Cumberland

Matt Masters • Sep 11, 2018 at 1:22 PM

Ken Kackley, a first-responder to the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001, spoke at Cumberland on Monday night where he shared his story of the day that changed America forever.

“What were you doing on Sept. 11, 2001? How many of you weren’t even born?” Kackley asked the crowd of about 50 guests gathered in Baird Chapel.

Kackley, a retired firefighter and volunteer ranger at Cedarville State Park in Maryland, who also served in the U.S. Navy, lived just south of Washington, D.C. in 2001 when his world, along with countless others, was rocked. 

“As I was driving out here this evening, the weather reminds me of Sept. 10, 2001, when I was at my fire station doing training. We trained that night, and we weren’t anticipating what we were going to be faced with the next day,” Kackley said.

Kackley described the morning of Sept. 11 as beautiful day without a cloud in the sky.

Kackley, who knew nothing of the attack on the World Trade Center, was soon paged by his fire chief with orders to get to the station and get everyone he could to the Pentagon.

“It wasn’t easy. The smell was unbelievable, the fire was unbelievable,” Kackley said. “But one of the best things that we saw while we were there – there were two firefighters who were climbed up on the side of the Pentagon holding the American flag. That showed us something, because today, with what’s going on in the world today, you never know,” said Kackley. “I still have problems thinking about it. It wasn’t a good scene.”

When asked what the younger generations need to know about the significance of Sept. 11, Kackley responded bluntly and passionately.

“They need to know what happened in America,” Kackley said. “These terrorists tried to take this country.”

Haley Austin, president of Cumberland University’s College Republicans, organized the event to bring awareness to the 17th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.

When Austin realized her plan to place flags for every victim of the attacks would cost more than $500, she reached out to the community, which helped to but small American flags that sit on Cumberland University’s quad as a reminder of what happened one September day.

“We want students to remember how impactful that day was, and we wanted to honor the victims, because it is a big deal,” Austin said. “The world is so different compared to what it used to be, and we just want people to know.”

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