KAUNEONGA LAKE, NY — Nineteen years ago, the nation suffered a devasting attack when Al-Qaeda terrorists hijacked four commercial airliners, crashing two of them into New York City’s Twin …
KAUNEONGA LAKE, NY — Nineteen years ago, the nation suffered a devasting attack when Al-Qaeda terrorists hijacked four commercial airliners, crashing two of them into New York City’s Twin Towers and another into the Pentagon in Washington, DC.
The fourth, United Airlines Flight 93, was taken over by courageous passengers who tragically perished retaking control of the craft. It fell out of the sky into a field in Somerset County, PA before the hijackers could crash it into its intended target.
On Saturday, September 12, Bethel Motor Speedway (BMS) continued its annual tradition of a first responders salute presented on the track during intermission between practice sessions, hot laps and the evening’s schedule of races.
Several volunteer fire companies turned out for the event: White Lake, Kauneonga Lake, White Sulphur Springs, Claryville and Goldens Bridge of Westchester County, NY.
Participating Emergency Medical Services (EMS) units were Bethel Volunteer Ambulance Corps (BVAC) and Mobile Medic, the track’s resident EMS unit.
The grassroots memorial was presented at the local asphalt quarter-mile oval, part of the NASCAR Home Tracks program, by Whelen Engineering Company, Inc.
All firefighters, EMS personnel and police got free grandstand seats and, during a break in the racing action, were invited out on to the grassy area next to the flagger’s platform for, along with the fans, a salute by the color guard comprised of first responders—those folks who put it all on the line to battle fires and respond to medical emergencies.
To kick off the salute, the Bethel Speedway Quartet—Layla Crane, Charlotte Crane, Laura Anderson and Mackenzie Houghtaling—took center track to perform the National Anthem, while Layla and Charlotte teamed up to sing “God Bless America.”
Leading the color guard were Kaunenoga FD firefighters Ashley Gettle and Ryan Pennell, joined by Chandler Fink of White Sulphur Springs.
Afterward, the fire apparatus and EMS rigs lapped the race circuit, lights flashing into the darkness, sirens blaring in the evening.
“It was great to see so many first responders and apparatus out here doing parade laps. It was a ceremony for all our heroes,” said Andy Crane, the track’s co-announcer, promoter and racecar driver.
“That was the day we were all Americans, everybody was proud to be an American. We needed to come together and forget about politics... We were together as Americans,” he added.
Recalling that day 19 years ago, the morning the United States woke up to the fact that terrorism could breach our defenses and strike a deadly blow on American soil, Crane said that, as a 17-year-old, he was helping set up for Super Dirt Week at the WTC’s Building 5. “I was eating a hotdog, looking up at the Twin Towers at 9:30 that night,” he recalled. “I woke up and was told our job was canceled, something had happened...
“I flipped on the television and saw what had happened,” he added. “Oh, man. It was a shock, not really sure what to make of it, but I knew what was going on when that second plane hit—knew it was going to be totally different than five minutes before.”
Chuck Kinne of the Kauneonga Lake FD has been in the local fire service for 41 years and still counting, having served as chief and engineer on the trucks.
On that fateful morning, he was working construction in Fishkill, NY and the crew was told to go home.
“Nobody knew what was going on,” but like Crane and countless others, once Kinne turned on a television, “I saw all the dust... a lot of the firefighters down there didn’t have masks on, and this didn’t look good.”
Asked why he turned out for the salute on the 19th Anniversary of 9/11, the veteran firefighter replied, “It’s respect for all those people who passed away.”
On that day in 2001, fellow Kauneonga Lake firefighter Pete Martese was on the Brooklyn Bridge watching the fall of the Twin Towers as columns of flame, smoke and dust billowed into the early morning sky.
“I was trying to document the horrors that we were all seeing,” he said, declining to go into detail as to what he witnessed first-hand.
“I learned that today’s America will always be vulnerable, but we’ll always stand strong as a country as to what’s right, our people will show unity where divide and conquer seems to be the word out there. So, unity is where we need to be,” said Martese.
Eugene Morton, 25, was, in a sense, representing the younger generation at the speedway’s memorial salute to first responders and 9/11.
As a third-generation racer at BMS, he is following in the tire tracks laid down by his grandfather John and his father Dale Morton, and voicing his passion for speed, said, “It’s my whole life, it’s in the blood.”
Morton was driving street stock #11 and, as usual, flying the American Flag alongside a “Trump 2020 - No More Bullsh*t” pennant from his racecar.
Asked why he was participating in the memorial, Morton replied, “In support of the first responders for everything they do, we wouldn’t be here without them, for sure!”
First-place winners taking the checkered flag on September 12 were Ed Dachenhausen (NASCAR BMS Modified and NASCAR 602 Sportsman), Kyle Welsch (NASCAR Street Stocks), Monika Deckelman (INEX Bandolero), Alex McCollum (INEX Legends), Ed Butler (Pro Stock), Mike Travis (4 Cylinder Advanced) and Steve Koskey (4 Cylinder Novice).