Photos and article by Mary Alice Murphy

Harrison Schmitt Elementary honors first responders on Patriot Day 091119

By Mary Alice Murphy

Harrison Schmitt Elementary School Principal Leslie Ormand spoke at the beginning of the Patriot Day celebration at the school to honor first responders on the 18th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on United State territory in New York City, Washington D.C., and a crash landing in a field in Pennsylvania, which stopped what many believe would have been another attack on either the White House or the Capitol in D.C.

"It's a sad, but powerful day, because we are here to recognize our heroes," Ormand said. She named the groups represented, Silver City Fire Department, Silver City Police Department, Grant County Sheriff's Office, New Mexico State Police, Gila Regional Medical Center Emergency Medical Services and Western New Mexico University Police.

SCPD Chief Freddie Portillo thanked Ormand for the recognition. "This is very nice, Mrs. Ormand and the first time I've had an experience like this. It is very heartwarming for us, as first responders, to have so much support in the community."

Sheriff Frank Gomez said he wanted to thank the school "This is awesome to honor us officers and first responders. It shows the caring of the community and the kids."

WNMU Chief Eddie Flores said it was very humbling. "We are appreciative of the kids. We don't want them to forget those who lost their lives on this day 18 years ago."

Ormand led the students in God Bless America. "We want our kids to appreciate our country."

J.R. Caulkins said he was there for 9/11. "We appreciate everything you do. Eighteen years ago the Northwest was on fire. I was on one of the teams and on this date 18 years ago, I walked into to office a little late. The towers had already fallen. The Gila National Forest called Dana Anderson, Mike Head, Rogers Steed and me to go to New York City. We went to the Trade Center the next day as a special urban search and rescue team. We were there for 35 days. All the photos you saw were sanitized. It was really crazy to be there. There were bomb scares every day. This one today has become the hardest for me. The kids born in 2001 are now freshmen in college."

"Honestly, it was a bad day," Caulkins said. "One of the most incredible days. Everyone united."

Dominic Brown of the Silver City Fire Department said he was six years old when 9/11 occurred. "I remember going to school My mom was in the Army for 16 years. She was looking at the TV and crying. She told me there had been an attack on the U.S. and school was closed. I knew it was bad news. The next day, the whole school stood in silence to commemorate the tragedy the day before."

Assistant Silver City Fire Chief Jeff Fell said he has a real appreciation for Leslie and the honor society putting together the ceremony and inviting the first responders. "It's really special."

He told the Beat that one-third of the fire department attended the event – those on the one shift at that time. Gomez said not quite half of his officers were there, and Portillo said about one-third of his officers attended.

Ormand also recognized parent Martha Johnson for organizing the event.