Crestview remembers 9/11

Displays and performances educate, enlighten, evoke emotion

Brian Hughes / Special to the News Bulletin / USA TODAY NETWORK

CRESTVIEW — There were many moist eyes in the Crestview Community Center Saturday night upon the conclusion of “Spirits of 9/11,” a dramatic presentation of the stories of police officers and firefighters who gave their lives rescuing others when the World Trade Center towers collapsed.

Two Crestview policemen — Officer William Johns and K9 Officer Nate Marlar — and five young historic re-enactors, including U.S. Army Sgt. Tyler Stanton, read the stories of New York heroes. Marlar’s reading told the story of the only K9 that gave his life during the attacks.

With a set representing the fallen ruins of the World Trade Center towers, Crestview Police Officer William Johns shares the story of a fallen New York Police Department officer who died while rescuing people in the towers during Crestview's 9/11 memorial event.

Though the dog’s human partner, a lieutenant of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Police Department, was on the fourth floor of one of the towers when it collapsed. He survived and was dug out of the rubble nearly seven hours later.

Clad in a borrowed set of Crestview Fire Department turnout gear, the event’s adviser, Dako Morfey, a new Crestview resident who moved from New Orleans just a couple weeks ahead of Hurricane Ida, shared the story of one of his personal heroes, Father Mychal Justice, a priest who had been praying in the North Tower lobby when he was struck by flying debris as the South Tower crumbled to the ground.

Flanked by vintage emergency vehicles, the cast of the “Spirits of 9/11” presentation are are pictured. They are Andrew Daigle, Ofc. William Johns, K9 Officer Nate Narlar, Dako Morfey, U.S. Army Sgt. Tyler Stanton, Shobu Hasegawa and Zachary Panici.

Such dramatic, often heart-wrenching stories touched attendees as the city paused to recognize a day that touched the nation, bringing Americans together to confront a common enemy. Many of the re-enactors were only toddlers or infants when the attacks occurred.

University of West Florida student and historic re-enactor Andrew Daigle shares the story of an NYPD officer who died in the World Trade Center towers collapse.

“It was really, really moving,” resident Carol Moody said after the presentation. “The police officers and young men did such a powerful performance.”

Earlier in the day, student actors from Crestview High School performed excerpts from “110 Stories,” which offered first-person survivors’ stories. To prepare for their roles, drama teacher Brittney Young required her cast to talk to teachers or other adults who watched the Sept. 11, 2001, events on TV as they unfolded and shared vivid memories of their emotions and thoughts with the students.

North Okaloosa Fire District Firefighter Javier Steele and Lt. Sean O’Brien stand in front of the 1999 E-One firetruck, similar to the units that responded in New York to the attacks on the World Trade Center.

Crestview’s daylong remembrance included exhibits of a vintage Crestview Police Crown Victoria from the early 2000s that was dressed in the livery of the New York Police Department and was crowned with a 20-year-old light car, and a 1999 North Okaloosa Fire District fire engine that still serves the community.

Crestview Mayor JB Whitten shows a display of New York first responder insignia presented to him at the end of the Crestview Remembers 9/11 events.

Outside, a Crestview Fire Department ladder truck flew an American flag over Commerce Drive, while at the west end of The Green spreading from the Community Center, 50 American flags, loaned by the Crestview Elks Club, greeted visitors.

The Niceville Fire Department and North Bay Fire District loaned artifacts from the World Trade Center rubble to the Crestview observance exhibits.

Pam Coffield and Rémy Kublik, members of the Crestview Area Sister City Program, which sponsored the city’s 9/11 remembrance events, welcome Ron Medlock and his guest to the Remembrance Dinner Saturday evening at the Crestview Community Center.

“Crestview Remembers 9/11” was a presentation of Mayor JB Whitten’s Cultural Series. At its conclusion, he was presented a set of framed New York Police and Fire Department shoulder patches, an NYPD sergeant’s badge, and the NYPD 9/11 memorial uniform banner.