Sandy Mumbach on 9/11: It’s important for those of us who did live it to remember out loud
Sandy Mumbach was the guest speaker at the town’s annual memorial honoring those who died in the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
Mumbach and her husband, Peter are 45-year residents of Wilton and parents to two former Wilton firefighters who responded to ground zero that day.
“Sept. 11, 2001,” she began. “Fourteen years ago. Our high school kids will think of that event as a day of history, not something they lived and experienced. I think it’s important for those of us that did live it to remember out loud and to share the experience of that terrible day.
“I remember being at home, getting ready to iron and watch a game show — my 15 minutes of fame came on a game show in 1977, so I’m a game show nut — and the telephone rang, and it was my husband, Peter, telling me to turn on the TV. The first plane had just hit the World Trade Tower.
“We were all still in the ‘accident mode’ until the second plane hit. Peter watched it live from the 55th floor of 30 Rockefeller Place, where he worked. With that, the ‘terrorism switch’ was flipped and fear and unknowing were added to the tragedy.
“My emotions ran the gamut, and I watched, and I watched, and then I could watch no longer. By one o’clock, the three people I love the most were all in New York City.
Peter’s office had emptied out — but perhaps they were to be the next tall building — and he began the great trek to get out of the city, and home. My sons are both firemen. Jason is a volunteer in Trumbull, and Matthew is FDNY, although he was in Stratford at the time. They took off with Capt. Czarnecki and Dave Chaloux, and were at ground zero by one o’clock. Their stories are remarkable.
“They came out slowly; they didn’t come out all at once, but I remember them telling me of the eeriness of passing all the ambulances on the West Side, all lined up to transport the survivors who never appeared.
“I remember later hearing from my niece of running to get away, covered in ash.
“I remember hearing of the extraordinary kindnesses that occurred everywhere.
“And then I remember how we as a people, as a nation, as a town reacted.
“Flags appeared everywhere. People organized supplies and aid. Social media enabled trucks to be filled and needs to be met. I remember being at the firehouse here, either loading or unloading water — I’m old; I can’t remember which we were doing; we were doing one of those things. Eighty-year-old ladies and seven-year-old kids doing what was needed.
“The remembering is important. I only knew one of the six who died from Wilton that awful day. I knew John Henwood as a boy, and that is how I will remember him: joyful, bounding with energy and fun.
“And we need to remember the men and women who are still suffering and still dying from diseases caused by their involvement at ground zero. My hope is that we will always remember, not so much what was done to us and what we suffered, but more how we reacted and how we rallied and how we rebuilt. Our lives were changed that day. We are watchful, but our strength is in our resilience and our sense of purpose and our dedication to our country.
I end as my favorite hymn ends: ‘We remember; we celebrate; we believe.