The imprint of 9/11 on Smalltown, USA, Chillicothe

Marianne Gillespie
Downtown Chillicothe

In a few days, one decade will have passed since terrorists attacked the United States.

For many, it does not seem like that much time has passed since the World Trade Center crumpled, the Pentagon was hit, and daring passengers on Flight 93 took over their plane and crashed it in Pennsylvania.

Since that time, Americans experienced a surge of patriotism and clung to each other as the nation began the healing process.

How did Sept. 11 affect Chillicotheans?

“The American way is when something really, really bad happens, it reminds people of who we are. We are not just Chillicotheans but Americans,” said Mayor Troy Childers Sr. “I think I saw a little more compassion in people.”

Patriotism always has remained high in Chillicothe, with a strong support of veterans and the United States in general.

“I think it reminds people to stay together a little more,” Childers said about 9/11.

As mayor, Childers is glad for the democratic way of life.

“If people don’t like what I do, they vote me out. They don’t shoot me out. I am very proud to be the mayor of Chillicothe.”

Over the last 10 years, the state’s fire departments collaborate more through Mutual Aid Box Alarm System, Chillicothe Fire Chief John Myers said.

“We are more in tune to help out each other,” said Myers.

MABAS existed for many years, but what transpired at the World Trade Center pushed for a more centralized approach.

Fire departments, even large ones, did not have the funding or staff to handle every situation within their department, so MABAS assisted in funding and training.

Two areas receiving attention were HazMat — dealing with weapons of mass destruction — and Technical Rescue Training — dealing with buildings collapsing. They also utilize their manpower’s expertise in various areas when needed, including fire chiefs being called to a scene through MABAS when another department needs management assistance.

Residents may not know there is now an intelligence section of fire service. If there is an unusual incident in one area, and another somewhere else, they can put the pieces together for a possible situation. All the fire departments in the state can be notified instantaneously through the emergency network if need be.

Smaller things also can be noticed locally, such as the firemen must wash their bunker gear after a working fire. The elements break down the fire resistance of the gear, and the dirtier the gear gets, the more chemicals can leak through them. Some firemen were sick after assisting those at the World Trade Center, and authorities believe some of it was from their gear, Myers said.

“It’s taken 10 years to get to some of those (changes), and some of them were subtle,” said Myers, who said firemen’s safety has come even more to the forefront.

On Sept. 11, 2001, Myers said the emotional day left him in disbelief, but ready to take action.

“I think I was like everyone else. Let’s jump on the bus and go.”

While he did not go, he found himself helping neighbors quicker and even helped coordinate assistance after Hurricane Katrina.

Ten years ago, the terrorist attack also caused those with family in the military to think about them even more than before.

Vicki Williams and her daughter, Felicia Combs, lit candles at 9:30 p.m. in the aftermath of Sept. 11 to remember those lost and think about their son and brother, Mark Combs, who was in the Marines.

Now living in Texas, Mark Combs reflects on how 9/11 affected him.

“I think one way that 9/11 changed my life is that I try not to take much for granted, because it’s things like this day that can happen out of the blue and it can all be taken away from you without any notice. Enjoy the time with your family and friends and cherish the time together.”