they came up with is a speakers bureau called the Never Forget
Foundation. They use the status the tragedy afforded them to talk about
some things that at first might not seem so heroic.
"Clap once if you hear my voice," Suprun said Tuesday morning, softly, as he stood before a room of snickering seventh graders.
were cackling at the photograph he projected in the cafeteria at the
Mariana Bracetti Academy Charter School in Kensington. The photo showed a
haggard man - collar askew, hair wild, face blackened.
who has three children of his own, understood why the students were
laughing. They had no context for what they were seeing.
must have been discomforted by what he'd just shown them - a video of
the second jet slicing into the World Trade Center's second tower.
"Yeah, his face is dirty. He was probably breathing in smoke."
Suprun had asked for a show of hands, none of the 200 seventh graders
in the room said they had any memory of what happened that day 11 years
ago. Most were 2 years old at the time. He could have been talking about
the French and Indian War.
A trio of 10th graders sat by
themselves. They're mentored by Big Brothers Big Sisters Southeastern
Pennsylvania, which had flown Suprun in to speak. The sophomores were 4
or 5 during the attacks. Their memories are faint as well.
Jimenez lived in Manhattan. His mother called the house where a friend
was babysitting for the boy and said, "Don't let him watch TV." The
family was so shaken, they moved back to the Dominican Republic for a
Cidmarie Perez just remembers her mother's reaction - shock.
Janairis Perez's mother just said "Oh, my God" over and over.
own 9/11 story began with a decision that runs counter to everything he
has taught in disaster management classes - he dispatched himself.
was 27, a volunteer paramedic at the Dale City fire company in Northern
Virginia, and he was teaching emergency medical response at George
When his beeper sounded after the first jet
struck in Manhattan, he drove with a buddy to the fire station, where
he always kept a fresh uniform.
As they dressed, preparing to
drive to New York, they watched a TV report from the Pentagon, where a
third jet had just smashed into the 30-acre building.
They roared up I-395 toward the thick, black smoke, which they could see from five miles away.
not like the movies," he said. "People weren't screaming. But you could
smell burning Jet A [fuel], burning paper, burning material. . . ."
and his partner were put to immediate use. In a parking lot, they
administered basic first aid until 6 that night, then were deployed to a
recreation center, where they treated the first responders for six
His experience has given him a platform, he knows. He
uses it to spread an old-fashioned message, about teamwork, practice,
and perseverance. In the case of his audience, that kind of dedication
might involve doing homework and test-prep, he said yesterday to some
groans. He kept going.
"Don't think of me as a hero," he said. "I
responded to a call for help. How are you going to respond to someone
who needs you? I want you to find the hero in the mirror."
Contact Daniel Rubin at 215-854-5917, email@example.com, or follow on Twitter @danielrubin or Facebook at http://ph.ly/DanRubin.