PITTSBURG, Kan. — Pittsburg State University’s Reserve Officers' Training Corps marked the 19th anniversary of the September 11th attacks Friday by firing four cannon shots at the times when the four hijacked planes crashed on 9/11 and doing more than 3,000 pushups to commemorate the victims.
"We did it for the first time last year," said Lt. Col. Charles Costello, professor in PSU’s Department of Military Science. "This is the second year, and we’re going to continue to do it every year."
Costello also described his memory of 9/11, which happened when he was 24 years old.
"I was angry. I was hurt. I was in shock," he said.
Capt. Erick Leon, assistant professor in the Department of Military Science, who grew up in New York City and was 18 years old and still living there on Sept. 11, 2001, said the attacks were a "surreal event" for him.
"I was called up by my aunt stating that the United States was under attack," Leon said. "I didn’t believe her so I turned on the news and sure enough, I watched as one of the buildings burned. I was close enough to actually see the twin towers, I was living in the Bronx."
All he could see when he went outside to see the burning towers for himself, though, was smoke, Leon said. He enlisted in the Army shortly after 9/11.
While both Costello and Leon deployed multiple times to the Middle East in the years after 9/11 — to Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere — and both can vividly remember the attacks, Leon said that this year’s anniversary is significant because it is the first year that almost all of his incoming freshmen cadets were born after the terrorist attacks.
"So it’s something we have to teach, you know, through history, and hopefully they continue on with the tradition as well," he said.
ROTC cadets fired four cannon shots Friday: at 8:46 a.m., when Flight 11 hit the first World Trade Center tower, at 9:03 a.m. when Flight 175 hit the second tower, at 9:37 a.m. when Flight 77 hit the Pentagon, and at 10:03 a.m., when Flight 93 crashed into a field in Pennsylvania.
They also did 2,977 pushups, one for each person killed in the attacks, and another 65 pushups in recognition of those that died as a result of 9/11-related injuries and lung disease, for a total of 3,042.