Tracy Kaiser was in college when she heard the news.
An airplane had crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center in New York City.
“I was going to my morning accounting class and I heard it on the radio driving to class,” she said.
Kaiser’s teacher turned to the news on a classroom television and students saw the second plane crash into the south tower. The teacher cancelled class and students continued to watch the news.
“I think you will always remember where you were during 911,” she said.
But almost 18 years after terrorists slammed hijacked planes into the towers, Kaiser knows there are many Americans, who were either too young to remember that day — Sept. 11, 2001 — or weren’t born yet.
That includes teens who graduated from high school this year.
Now area residents have a chance to educate younger Americans when the 9/11 Never Forget Mobile Exhibit comes to Nebraska for the John C. Fremont Days Festival.
Don Cunningham, board president, said the mobile unit is a semi with a trailer that unfolds into a room with artifacts from the 911 attacks.
“This exhibit has never been to Nebraska,” said Cunningham, adding that “The goal is to educate our younger students who really have no memory or recollection of that day.”
The unit features everything from World Trade Center steel and an aluminum façade to audio tapes of firefighters battling the fire.
It includes items like a panel of a firetruck and a golf ball found in the rubble.
The tours, free and open to the public, are conducted by firefighters who were eyewitnesses to history and able to share their perspective on what happened that day and thereafter.
This exhibit will be open from 3-9 p.m. July 12 and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. July 13 at John C. Fremont City Park, Eighth and Main streets in Fremont.
Cunningham pointed out that the exhibit is open for six hours each of those days.
“We expect people to be lined up to see this,” he said.
Those who want to see the exhibit should make sure they are in line 15 minutes before closing time.
Cunningham also said an exhibit escort into Fremont will take place at approximately 5:30 p.m. on July 11 (Thursday) from U.S. Highway 275 on Military Avenue to the John C. Fremont City Park.
Kaiser, co-treasurer of the JCF Days board, was the one who learned about the traveling exhibit.
“I started thinking about honoring our first responders and I Googled ‘first-responders exhibits’ and this is what popped up,” she said.
Kaiser contacted the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation, which provides the exhibit.
“It’s a great organization,” she said.
Information on the foundation’s website states that besides the exhibit it also builds mortgage-free smart homes for the country’s most catastrophically injured service members.
“Especially with all the flooding, I thought it was a great chance for us to honor our first-responders and everything they’ve done during the flooding,” she said.
Cunningham said the exhibit will benefit families that can’t get to New York City.
Kaiser also noted the exhibit’s informational aspect.
“This exhibit will be a great educational tool to learn more about what happened on 911 and get those stories from the first responders who were there, because the firemen from 911 will be doing the tours,” Kaiser said.
Kaiser, who’s from North Bend, said she and her husband, Jeff, plan to take their two children, who are 5 and 7 years old.
“I’m sure they’ll have lots of questions,” she said.
Cunningham expects the exhibit will be impactful.
“This is going to be one of the strongest exhibits we’ve had at John C. Fremont Days in recent memory,” Cunningham said. “There’s going to be some emotion to it. There’s history to it and probably a bit of sadness. For those of us who lived through this time, the memories aren’t so good.”
Information from the Siller foundation states that its mission is to honor the sacrifice of firefighter Stephen Siller who laid down his life to save others on 9/11.
“The foundation honors and supports first responders and service members who continue to make the supreme sacrifice of life and limb for this nation,” the website states. “It helps surviving family members of law enforcement, firefighters, and emergency workers who lost their lives under extraordinary circumstances in the line of duty.”
In 2018, it launched the Gold Star Family Home Program, providing a mortgage-free home to surviving spouses with young children. It’s committed to raising $250 million to provide 1,000 homes to Gold Star families.
With the help of 15,000 volunteers, it also cleaned and gutted 1,800 homes and completely rebuilt 250 homes after Superstorm Sandy hit the East Coast in 2012.