SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – Even though the 9/11 attacks were 20 years ago and 2000 miles away, they had a profound impact here In Utah.
Three Utahns were killed on that terrible Tuesday morning and dozens of first responders flew to New York to dig through the debris. This weekend’s anniversary is an opportunity to remember and reflect.
On Friday, construction workers at Salt Lake City International Airport paused their labor for a sunrise ceremony commemorating the events of September 11th, 2001.
Meanwhile in Sandy, 3,031 flags wave in the breeze at the Utah Healing Field, each one representing a life lost in the attacks. Three of those flags represent Utahns.
78-year-old Mary Alice Wahlstrom of Kaysville and her 48-year-old daughter Carolyn Beug, were passengers on American Airlines Flight 11 that struck the World Trade Center. 26-year-old Utah State University graduate Brady Howell was killed while working at the Pentagon. Their names are forever etched in a 9/11 Memorial.
With the rubble of Ground Zero still smoldering after the attacks, Utah Task Force One sent 62 rescuers to dig through the rubble for bodies. Unified Fire Department Captain Mike Greensides was one of them and says he knew the air he was breathing was potentially hazardous.
“I say it’s a combination of rotting meat, the most stinkiest garbage you can ever imagine and a really stinky garbage fire is what it smells like,” Captain Greensides told ABC4 News in 2020. “I’ll never forget that smell and so we know that there’s a lot of different stuff happening.”
Unfortunately, that toxic air would eventually take its toll. His Task Force One colleague, Salt Lake City Fire Captain Robin Pilcher, died of 9/11-related pancreatic cancer in 2016 and Greensides’ co-worker and good friend Chris Cage died of cancer one year ago at the age of 63.
“We’ve had others who have had prostate, testicular cancer. Another person has brain tumors going on,” Capt. Greensides said. “I, myself have had kidney cancer. Last year on May 20th. I had my left tumor and a large tumor removed.”
Four Utah search dogs were also part of the recovery effort, including Cowboy and his handler Dave Richards.
“I think about what he thought we were doing. You know, he didn’t know the Trade Centers had come down. He just showed up at this big pile of concrete and we hadn’t done anything like that before,” Richards said. “He doesn’t have gloves and knee pads and a hard hat, steel-toed boots. He just has what God gave him and he’s out there giving his all, in conditions without a respirator, working his little butt off.”
Years later, Cowboy also died of cancer. Now we remember the sacrifices of all the four-legged and two-legged heroes, as well as all the victims of a tragedy that continues to unfold two decades later.
A number of ceremonies are planned for tomorrow throughout the state of Utah. Click here for a complete list of locations and times.