Ben Thomas Jr.
Mayor of Greencastle
Ben Thomas Jr.

The times were 8:46 a.m.; 9:03 a.m.; 9:37 a.m.; and 10:03 a.m. If you’re of a certain age or a young person who has studied history, this day that took nearly 3,000 lives on United States soil and caused the illness and deaths of many others in the years that followed is known as 9/11 (Patriots' Day). Thanks for joining me for a few minutes for some outside sittin’ and writin’ to the citizens of the Greencastle community.   

It was a beautiful, crisp, late summer day in 2001 similar to the beautiful day we experienced this past Sunday, Aug. 30. Those innocent victims in the World Trade Center towers were the first victims, followed by the Pentagon and then the flight that crashed west of us in Stoneycreek Township, Pennsylvania.

Just think ... none of the students in this year’s Greencastle-Antrim School District were born in 2001. Those of us who experienced that day now relate to those living during the Challenger disaster; President Kennedy’s assassination; or the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

I was working at Antrim Township that morning when the phone rang. The mother of one of our employees called and said turn on the television! A TV was located back in the planning room. I observed on the small box TV screen the first World Trade Center smoking and on fire. My first thought was how could a pilot not see that tall structure on such a beautiful, clear morning? Then the second plane hit the second tower. At that point I knew our great, free country was being attacked. We locked the municipal building down for security purposes. The public meeting that evening was postponed. Several first responders from the region left Franklin County to volunteer in New York City. The Chambersburg Salvation Army’s lunch wagon was dispatched to NYC. On Sept. 12, several Greencastle churches opened their doors so citizens could enter for meditation and support.

Where were you when the world stopped turning, that September day? When I hear Allen Jackson’s song, it certainly makes me reflect on that time 19 years ago — the nation’s resilience and the patriotism of our citizens, our military and our first responders. It is so important that history be properly and accurately documented and not erased. Over the past 19 years I have heard presentations from the retired pilot of Air Force One flying the only plane in the air later that day and the fighter pilot stationed at Andrews Air Force Base and assigned to fly her unarmed jet west into Pennsylvania to intercept a flight that turned around in Ohio and ultimately crashed in Somerset County, just three counties west of Franklin County. I don’t need to explain what her mission was. I’ve spoken to retired New York City police officers working that day and to family members who lost their warriors in the operations that followed, fighting the forces that desired to destroy this nation and the freedoms we so take for granted. I’ve been humbled by these experiences and these men and women’s service to the United States of America.

It is so important that these events be imparted to our grandchildren and great-grandchildren to instill their freedoms just as my parents, aunts, uncles and grandmother of the World War II generation taught me with patriotism and confidence.

On September 11 at p.m., I’ll be with my grandchildren at the Veteran’s Memorial in front of police headquarters for a 9/11 moment of silence and reflection. If you want to join us, you’re more than welcome.

I recently received an email from James Eagler, program specialist with the Franklin/Fulton Drug & Alcohol office. He advised that September is Recovery Month, and in the past two years, Greencastle has participated by allowing Purple Ribbons to be placed throughout town or by fixing purple lights in the trees along the Square. Council will consider this request at their Sept. 8 regular meeting. The goal is to have as many communities and community members participate in the Purple Light and Shirt/Mask campaigns by posting their photos/selfies on our Recovery Month Facebook page. A Recovery Month Proclamation for Franklin and Fulton Counties has been scheduled. Drug-related deaths are decreasing nationwide, however, overdoses and the associated hurt numbers are still very concerning. Seeking help is the first step. Please support anyone fighting addiction. Support is so important.

Remember, the council and mayor will meet on Tuesday, Sept. 8, at 7 p.m., the day after Labor Day. You’ve never been to a meeting?  Please consider attending. 

My coffee cup is empty now. No iced tea today. Enjoy September! Support each other and support our local Greencastle-Antrim businesses. We are blessed.