By Jeff Odom
Freedom High student Anthony Martinez was at the epicenter when terrorists hijacked two commercial jetliners and crashed them into the World Trade Center towers in New York City on Sept. 11, 2001.
The junior lived across the bridge in Brooklyn at the time. He can remember everything he witnessed, right down to the smoke-filled air.
“I was watching TV and I was in the living room,” said Martinez, who is now on Freedom’s color guard. “I started changing the channels and all I changed it to (the news channel), and I see it. I called my mom over, and I wasn’t really sure what was happening.”
Martinez, like most Americans, was in complete shock of the events unfolding.
Martinez, who wants to one day join the U.S. Marine Corp., said his family huddled around the television, overcome with emotion.
“Everybody started crying,” Martinez remembered. “As a little kid, I still didn’t know what was going on. Now that I know (today) what happened, I’m really honored and proud to do this color guard for the last three years that I’ve been here, and I get to respect all those who died.”
Freedom, along with the adjacent Liberty Middle, had their names selected to honor the victims of the attacks when both opened in 2002.
Martinez said attending a school that’s name honors the events of 9/11 fills him with pride for his country. This year he took part in a flag ceremony in front of Freedom on the morning of Sept. 11.
Capt. Ted Wasylkiw, director of the school’s ROTC program, was assigned to the Special Operations command in 2001. He recalled watching the event in angst, unsure of how the military would handle it.
“Not only were we watching as interested citizens of the country, but Special Operations command led the fight in the War on Terrorism,” Wasylkiw said. “So, as we’re watching, everybody’s trying to figure out what’s next. I’ll never forget that day.”
Wasylkiw began teaching at Freedom seven years ago. When he arrived at the school, he was surprised that there was no formal ceremony to honor the victims, so he made sure one was put in place. He said most of his ROTC students, who were toddlers at the time, don’t understand what took place on Sept. 11.
“I have kids out here who were 3 on that day,” Wasylkiw said. “They don’t have a clue, or appreciate it. In our room, we have a 9/11 mural there. … We just want to remember it every year. Some people say ‘Let’s forget it,’ but it’s important not to because it’s going to happen again if we’re not vigilant.”
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