9/11 memorial honors fallen Marines, features survivor

September 9, 2011 2:27:40 PM PDT
Hundreds of people gathered Friday to honor four Marines from Aurora killed in Iraq after 9/11.

Those in attendance also heard from a survivor who escaped the World Trade Center.

Tom Jones, of Darien, Ill., arrived in New York City for a training course. It was his first time visiting the Twin Towers. On September 11, 2001, when the first plane hit the north tower at 8:46 a.m., Jones was on the 61st floor of the south tower, getting ready to start his day.

"It's the day I witnessed the worst that mankind can offer, but the best as well," Jones told ABC7.

Before an audience of more than 200 people, Jones remembered that day. After the first plane hit, Jones says he saw papers falling from the sky and black smoke. Not knowing what had happened but worried about a fire, Jones decided to self-evacuate from the 61st floor room he was in at the World Trade Center's north tower. He remembers the long route down the stairwells and the message that at one point came through the P.A. system.

"Remain calm, building one has been hit by a plane, Tower 2 is secure," Jones said, recalling the announcement.

A few minutes later, the second plane hit Tower 2.

"That's when I committed myself that I was going to see my wife and children again," he said.

Jones' story brought tears to the eyes of many at the emotional remembrance, where not only the victims of 9/11 were remembered, but also the thousands of soldiers who have since lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan, among them four Aurora Marines. They are First Lieutenant Timothy Ryan, Lance Corporal Jesse Delatorre, Private Eduardo Lopez and Lance Corporal Hector Ramos.

"On 9/11, he hadn't even graduated yet and he signed up. He got a hold of one of the recruiters and said, 'if you'll take me now, I will go now," said Nancy Ramos, Hector's mother.

"He said, 'you have to enlist when they need you. It doesn't make any sense to enlist when you can't do anything about it,'" said Aureliano Delatorre, Jesse's mother.

Following the ceremony, next door at Aurora's Fire Museum, those gathered went through an exhibit of photographs from 9/11 including some taken by local firefighters, who volunteered to go to New York in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks. Among them was Battalion Chief Tim Pogue.

"As debris was uncovered and they were pulling the fire trucks and police cars out, they would line up all the vehicles...you'd look at the end, say there's ten people, there's ten more, there's another then," said Pogue.

The experience at Ground Zero changed the firefighters' lives forever. Pogue told ABC prior to 9/11 there were worries about bills and excuses for not making his children's events. Afterward, the financial worries took a backseat to spending time with his family and those close to him.

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