9/11 commemorated locally with JROTC public safety challenge

9/11 commemorated locally with  JROTC public safety challenge
September 17
00:00 2015

Local officials stand for a moment of silence at the 9/11 commemoration: (L-R) Emergency Services Director Dan Ozimek, Mayor Pro Tempore Vivian Burke, Mayor Allen Joines, County Commissioner David Plyler,  WS/FC Schools Chief Academic Officer Kenneth Simington, JROTC Director Willie McCoy, Assistant Police Chief Wilson Weaver, Assistant Fire Chief Harry Brown, City Council Member Dan Besse and Sheriff William Schatzman. (Photo by Todd Luck)

By Todd Luck

The Chronicle

Winston-Salem and Forsyth County commemorated the 14th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks with a competition for Junior ROTC cadets at the Winston-Salem Fairgrounds Annex on Saturday.

The first annual 9/11 Public Safety Challenge was designed to encourage JROTC cadets to think about careers in public safety. It’s a new way to acknowledge the courage and sacrifice of first responders on September 11, 2001, when the World Trade Center was attacked by terrorists. When the buildings collapsed, first responders helping with the evacuation were killed, including 343 firefighters and paramedics, 23 New York City Police officers and 37 port authority police officers.

“Fourteen years ago yesterday, America was attacked by terrorists,” Mayor Allen Joines told attendees on Sept. 12. “Their idea or the goal was to demoralize America, but just the opposite happened. Some people say it could’ve been America’s finest hour.”

The ceremony, which beginning at 9:11 a.m., featured many regular traditions. There was the wreath laying by officials from the sheriff, emergency services, police and fire departments. There was a moment of silence, the ringing of the bell by the Winston-Salem Fire Department and playing of TAPS to honor the fallen.

“We are grateful to the men and women who get up each and every morning to make us safe and sound,” said Mayor Pro Temp Vivian Burke.

County Commissioner David Plyler told the JROTC cadets to consider careers in public safety.

“If you continue your service to your community you will, take my word for it, get so much in return,” he said.

After the ceremony, the competition immediately began pitting 10 high schools with JROTC programs against each other. Two of the events were typical of JROTC competitions. Marksmanship judged teams of cadets on shooting 10 targets 33 feet away with a pellet riffle in prone, kneeling and standing positions. Close order drills judged squads from each school on their ability to precisely follow a routine.

The third challenge was a raider obstacle course used to train those in public safety. One student from each school got to try their hand at it. Some of the obstacles included having to clear a fence and roll with a 100 pound bag. The final leg involved donning a fire coat and helmet to run up and down stairs while carrying a fire hose and then dragging a 150 pound dummy.

Among those competing was Jesus Garcia, a junior at Parkland High School, who said it was a challenging course. Garcia said he was proud to be in JROTC.

“It makes me feel like I’m part of something big,” he said.

Jacob Simpson a junior from West Forsyth High School, came in second in the raider challenge. He said he’s gained a lot from being in JROTC.

“I’ve become stronger, not just physically, but mentally,” he said.

Simpson said the raider course gave him an even deeper appreciation of what first responders faced on 9/11.

“Now I have a better understanding of what they had to do,” he said.

LTC Willie McCoy, JROTC director for Winston-Salem Forsyth County schools, said the JROTC program is growing with about 1,200 students in 10 schools. He said JROTC motivates students to be better citizens. It instills discipline and leadership qualities in youth.

“It’s like no other course,” he said. “You get a chance to be an instructor, you get a chance to tell other people what to do.”

McCoy said few students who take JROTC go into the military. A small percentage go into public safety, which he says is a good fit for former JROTC cadets.

“JROTC teaches you discipline and teamwork.” he said. “And police departments, EMS, fire departments, it’s about teamwork, discipline, working together, being motivated, being able to count on somebody.”

Caroline Alvarez, who led the Mt. Tabor drill squad on Saturday, said she was honored to lead her fellow cadets in competing in an event to commemorate 9/11.

“It helps us remember what happened back then,” she said. “How our country got stronger, how we still have people out their who help our country.”

MSgt. Maurice Kearney is the JROTC instructor for Mt. Tabor, which took home several trophies for marksmanship Saturday. Kearney, who teaches 135 cadets in eight classes, said it was an appropriate way to mark the anniversary.

“I think it’s a special day for a special moment,” he said. “It gives the kids some kind of idea how everyone was involved in picking this country up.”

East Forsyth High School won the Public Safety Challenge Cup for best overall school. The cup will travel from school to school as a winner is chosen each year.


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Todd Luck

Todd Luck

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