Leland Zak told the students outside Ella T. Grasso Southeastern Technical High School this morning he still remembers the smell in New York City and the ash floating in the air two days after September 11.
Zak, of Plainfield, gave the keynote speech at a ceremony at the school. He was working at a Staples warehouse on September 11, watched on television as the towers fell, then had to deliver supplies to New York on Sept. 13, 2011.
He’ll never forget it.
“It was like a dust cloud," he said later. “It was the ash, almost like a fog. Ash covered everything, almost like dust in a house.”
Students gathered in front of the school to remember the day, along with representatives of police and fire departments, including the Poquonnock Bridge Fire Department, Sub Base Fire Department, Groton City Fire Department and Mystic Fire Department.
The students created a set of red and blue boards to represent 9/11, with 2,977 small flags on them, one to represent each life lost.
Grasso Tech Principal Patricia Feeney told the students, “Many of us remember that day vividly.”
“This memorial serves as a reminder of the American spirit that all of us have inside of us,” she said.
Student Noelle Hooper-Hartman, 15, said she doesn’t remember the day, but her mother does.
“She just remembers being devastated and shocked,” Hooper-Hartman said.
She said it’s important for her and other students to mark it also.
“To me, today’s a dedication to all the families who lost their lives and to the people who lost someone they loved,” she said.