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'True heroes were everywhere that day'



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Lake Geneva Police Officer Ralph Braden leads the Pledge of Allegiance at Badger High School Friday during a special program to honor those who lost their lives in the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. (click for larger version)

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September 14, 2011 | 08:14 AM
Area resident Maria Melenzio Kinsey will never forget the events of Sept. 11, 2001, in New York. She wasn't there that day, but members of her family were right in the middle of the tragedy.

"That day, I got a call from my cousin who was driving the train near the towers that morning," she said. "He stayed for hours with the passengers underground. One cousin was late for work in the Twin Towers and didn't go in that day and another was supposed to be there."

All those are reasons why Kinsey wrote a poem about the events that day and wanted to share her memories.

"I had family there, but I didn't lose anybody there," Kinsey said. "That poem just came to me."

She's not the only one with memories of 10 years ago.

On Friday, more shared their memories of 9/11 with the students at Badger High School during a special ceremony.

Badger principal Bob Kopydlowski, Lake Geneva police officer Ralph Braden and Lake Geneva Fire Department Capt. Mark Moller-Gunderson spoke for several minutes to students, who packed into the bleachers in the gym.

Students, many of whom were only 5 or 6 at the time of the attacks, were silent as they listened.

Kopydlowski said the world changed 10 years ago. He told two stories of heroism from that day.

"True heroes were everywhere that day," he said. "Today we are here to remember and to honor their courage and sacrifice."

Braden, who has walked the halls of schools as a liaison officer for 17 years, led a moment of silence for his fellow law enforcement officers who died trying to save others at the Twin Towers in Manhattan.

He talked to the students about the future and a day that must never be forgotten.

"The question is can we be attacked again?" he said. "That is the million dollar question."

Braden admitted no one knows if a future attack will happen, but it shouldn't stop Americans.

"We cannot and should not let terrorism be part of our lives," he said. "We shouldn't show them we're afraid because then they win."

Moller-Gunderson talked about his visit to Ground Zero in 2009 and how he traded a Lake Geneva Fire Department T-shirt for a FDNY shirt honoring firefighter Steve Olsen, who ran into one of the burning towers because "that was his job."

"I've been a firefighter for 16 years and I can't imagine that situation," Moller-Gunderson said. "But, he didn't hesitate. He was an ordinary citizen called to an extraordinary situation."

"He died that day," Moller-Gunderson said. "Along with 343 other firefighters."

Moller-Gunderson then focused on the students.

"It is hard for you who were 6, 7, or 8 to remember what happened," he told them. "But, remember these people's sacrifices, their love of this country and their fellow citizens."

He said they showed courage in the face of danger. Moller-Gunderson said America is the same way.

"We show hope in the times of despair," he said. "We could have crawled into a hole, but we are a people of hope and we have shown resilience."

Moller-Gunderson said everyone can make a difference as well on a daily basis and it can start at Badger.

"Work for unity instead of division," he said. "Try to find ways to stand together and love instead of hate."

The ceremony ended with Andy Willett playing the bagpipes.

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