The Watseka area will have a chance to see a piece of history in October.
October when the Tunnel to Towers Foundation 9/11 Never Forget Mobile Exhibit comes to the area.
Organizers of the event say the three-day event will be a community historical and informational event. It will be Oct. 18-20 at Watseka Community High School.
The mobile exhibit was created for Stephen Siller, a New York City firefighter who died on Sept. 11, 2001, after responding to the World Trade Center attack.
Sherry Johnson, executive director of the Watseka Park District, said, “If you go to the website, it gives you the history of Steven Siller and why this mobile exhibit was created. It talks about the fact that Steven didn’t have a perfect life, but he came from a very loving family. His parents died early on and he was raised by the rest of his family and they were all very tight-knit.
“The day of the attack, he had gotten off work and he was supposed to go golfing with his brothers,” she said. “He heard the radio call come across. He called his wife and said ‘hey, tell my brothers I’ll catch up with them’, and that was the last they heard from him.
“When he got to the tunnel, it was already shut down and he grabbed his gear and ran to the towers and that was it,” she said.
There have been a lot of people from the area who were involved with going to the site after the Sept. 11 attacks to help with clean up and other duties that needed done at that time.
“It’s impacted a lot of lives and I feel like maybe it is time to be a little more patriotic and take a look at ourselves,” she said. “We started researching this and we are excited to bring it to this community.”
It is called called Step, STAND, Salute, Character Still Counts because “it’s time for us to step up, stand up, salute what we have and be proud of what we have,” she said.
Amanda Hibbs, executive director of the Watseka Area Chamber of Commerce, said, the mobile exhibit has artifacts from the World Trade Center and the tours are guided by New York City firefighters who were eyewitnesses to the World Trade Center attacks.
“Those that come actually witnesses this, survived, they were aware of this and they are going to be giving the tours,” she said. “The reason that they started this is that they wanted Americans to be able to experience the exhibit if they are unable to get to New York City.
The 53-foot tractor trailer will be transformed into a 1,000 square foot exhibit. It will include interactive education, steel beams from the towers and other Sept. 11 artifacts. There will be documentary videos and recordings of first responder radio transmissions and interactive guided tours from the New York firefighters. Johnson said that the group is hoping that the community and the schools in the area will embrace the opportunity to learn about the Sept. 11 attacks. They are inviting all schools in the area to bring students to the exhibit on the Friday of the event, which is set aside for students.
“It’s a great opportunity for those kids who don’t know anything about this,” she said. “They don’t know what that is. It’s a great opportunity for us to say something bad happened and this is the phoenix that rose out of it. If it’s done as we know it can be done by our educators then that’s more than we could ever hope for. If you don’t know where you are at historically you con’t know how you can step away from it or rise above it.”
There are many opportunities to take on a volunteer role if they want. “Anybody who wants to volunteer who wants to help, to talk to people afterwards,” she said. Sometimes just being there and listening as people observe the exhibit is all that is needed, she said.
Those who want to participate, but can’t be at the event, she said, can write down where they were or what they remember about hearing the news of the World Trade Center that day. Some people, she said, remember vividly about where they were that day. “That’s what is part of bringing us together,” she said. “That’s what the common ties are.”
“We want people to clear off their calendars and come and see this piece of history that is going to be right in their own back yard, “Johnson said.
The inspirational phrase for the Siller family, she said, is “While we have time, let us do good”.
“I think we should all live by that,” she said. “This is a good thing that’s coming here. If you are not a history buff, to you think it is political, it is not. This is what men and women, either doing their job or not doing their job, just being in the right place at the wrong time or the wrong place at the right time, this is what we need to acknowledge and we need to embrace.”
There are many activities being planned around the event, and those will be announced as they are finalized.
The city of Watseka has paid for the exhibit. The group is seeking donations for accommodations, advertising and other expenses related to the event.
The group can be found on Facebook and people who have questions can contact them at the chamber or park district offices.