By Gerard Flanagan, news writer/photographer, social media, Office of University Communications
CAMPBELLSVILLE, Ky.—Bill Cassell, like many, can recall where he was and what he was doing in vivid detail 20 years ago on Sept. 11, 2001.
Even though Campbellsville was hundreds of miles away from the sites of the attacks, Cassell, the Campbellsville Chief of Police on 9/11, remembers the uncertainty and worry of that day.
However, Cassell, who is now an assistant professor of criminal justice at Campbellsville University, more vividly remembers the determination of his fellow first responders on that day, and he spoke about that during a flag dedication ceremony on 9/11 at Campbellsville University’s Mass Communication Center.
The flag dedicated was flown over Goodfellow Air Force Base in San Angelo Texas in 2003 and was given to Fr. Larry Recla and his congregation at Trinity Lutheran Church in Astoria in appreciation and recognition of the work that Recla did as a Ground Zero temporary morgue chaplain and the relationship that developed between Goodfellow and Trinity immediately after 9/11 when Goodfellow sent personnel and supplies to assist in the recovery efforts. Local first responders assisted with raising the flag.
Before Cassell, Dr. John Hurtgen, dean of the School of Theology and professor of theology, offered a moment of prayer.
“I led a group of officers I knew were always ready,” Cassell said. “We faced unknown territory and public fear. I remember thinking we needed to recall our officers to duty, but before I could implement that, I began seeing officers just showing up and asking, ‘Where do you need me?’ They left their homes and families to serve our community that was facing the unknown.”
Cassell said he saw the same dedication from other first responders as well.
“Fire, rescue and emergency management were working hard to ensure calls were answered and that they had the proper equipment and supplies,” Cassell said, “bringing equipment and supplies to other departments if they needed it. It was one team, one city.”
Emergency dispatchers were also prepared for whatever happened that day, according to Cassell.
“They worked diligently to take care of our residents and most of all keep track of our fellow first responders,” Cassell said.
That day, Cassell said department heads worked hard to coordinate responses and prepare for any situation.
“We needed to be there to help,” Cassell said.
Cassell said he went home to grab a shower and change his uniform.
“I took a moment to catch my breath, say a prayer and look around,” Cassell said. “It stuck me, that on that clear, blue-sky September day, there was no traffic, no people outside talking, no plane noises and no vapor trails in the sky. It was a sad, unknown quiet.”
Cassell called his sister, who lived just outside Washington, D.C. at the time of the attacks. Her husband was in the Pentagon, and her son was in the World Trade Center. She hadn’t heard from either.
“I realized at that point my focus had to be on the residents of our city and county,” Cassell said, “so I went back to work like my officers and other first responders.”
Thankfully, Cassell would receive word both were safe.
According to Cassell, local first responders, including then-Coroner Terry Dabney, went to Ground Zero to assist with the recovery.
“Our first responders stepped up and faced a challenge head on, each of them leaders and putting their community first,” Cassell said. “I was, and continue to be, so proud of the dedicated first responders I had the honor of serving with. They’re often forgotten, criticized, overlooked and undercompensated, but they continue to always be ready.”
Cassell said he remembers the unity that swept across the community, state and nation in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks.
“Flags started popping up everywhere, people were bringing food to the first responders, we felt the love, prayers and support of the people we served,” Cassell said.
Stan McKinney, chair of the Department of Mass Communication and associate professor of journalism, echoed Cassell’s remarks.
“There’s one thing that did happen after 9/11 that needs to happen again,” McKinney said, “and that’s for us to unite, to realize we’re one country, one nation, regardless of what political party and what religion we are, whatever might divide us in some way. We must find a way to unite.”
McKinney also spoke about the bravery first responders show daily.
“These brave men and women risk their lives each and every day for all of us,” McKinney said. “It’s appropriate to honor them.”
Dr. H. Keith Spears, interim president for Campbellsville University, said 412 first responders died responding to the attacks in New York City.
“They ran toward the smoke, the explosion, the buildings that would collapse upon them,” Spears said.
Spears told the story of Glen J. Winnick, a lawyer who worked just down the street from the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. Winnick was one of the nearly 3,000 people who lost their lives as a result of the attacks.
“Glen was a volunteer fireman,” Spears said. “When he heard the explosion, and everyone was looking out the window and said, ‘Something has happened at the World Trade Center,’ he got up from his desk and went down the street and ran toward the World Trade Center.”
Spears said first responders run toward the danger and not away from it, like many people might.
“They drive quickly to help, and that’s the difference,” Spears said. “They go toward the danger.”
Campbellsville University is a widely acclaimed Kentucky-based Christian university with more than 12,500 students offering over 100 programs of study including Ph.D., master, baccalaureate, associate, pre-professional and certification programs. The website for complete information is www.campbellsville.edu.