COLTS NECK, N.J. SEPTEMBER 11, 2014 – -- Today marks 13 years after the attacks of the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001. The tragedy affected many people and to this day continues to have an impact. For the Marines and poolees of Marine Corps Recruiting Station New Jersey, the impact was felt the day it occurred.
“I was in high school science class,” said Sgt. Steven Toth, canvassing recruiter with Sub-Station Central Jersey and native of Las Vegas, Nev. “They made an announcement over the loud speaker and then we all watched the news as a class.”
Toth is one of thousands of young men and women across the nation that were affected by the 9/11 attacks at a young age and decided to serve their country when the time came. Sgt. Kevin Post, a coworker of Toth’s and native of Toms River, was a junior in high school gym class when it happened. Post and Toth are now seasoned Marines with a few deployments under their belts and are in charge of finding the brightest young men and women that are ready to step up and take the oath to defend their country, as they did years ago.
“The majority of young men and women that we talk to remember the incident, even though some of them were only five or six,” Toth said. “They have a great sense of pride, patriotism, and hunger to make a difference for their country.”
Pfc. Bridgette M. Durham, 19-years-old and native of Bellmawr, graduated boot camp, Aug. 29, 2014, and can account for the attacks even though she was only six. “I was in elementary school and really didn’t understand what was going on because I was too young,” she remembers. “As I grew up, I began to understand more and more about the events and it inspired me to do something.”
Durham is one of approximately 60 Marines and Marine Corps poolees that gathered this past Sunday, Aug. 7, to support and run the 9/11 Heroes Run in Pennsauken, N.J. The 9/11 Heroes Run activates communities across the country to honor the sacrifices of the heroes of Sept. 11th and of the wars fought since. The 9/11 Heroes Run was created by the Travis Manion Foundation to honor Travis Manion’s mission.
1st Lt. Travis Manion, native of Doylestown, Penn., was killed in action in Al-Anbar Province in Iraq in 2007. Prior to Manion’s second deployment to Iraq he visited various first responders that were affected by Sept. 11, 2001. He did this to gain perspective to bring back to his Marines in Iraq. He wanted to show them how what they are doing in Iraq is important and how many people were actually affected by the attacks. To date, more than 50,000 participants in 55 communities have participated in the 9/11 Heroes Runs located throughout the country.
Once the local Marines heard about the event they reacted instantly for the opportunity to support their local fallen brothers and sisters. “It’s important that we give back to community by showing up and participating in the event to commemorate our fallen brothers and sisters,” said Gunnery Sgt. Nelson Escobar, station commander of Recruiting Sub-Station South Jersey. The two local Marine offices combined forces to show an enhanced presence, which consisted of more than 60 poolees, 10 Marines, a pull-up bar, and Marine hummer. A poolee is an individual that has taken the oath to serve their country but is waiting to attend recruit training.
“I thought it was important for us to show our support today because we are all in this together,” said Poolee Anthony Morales. Thirteen years earlier, Morales was just in first grade during the attacks. “All I remember is having an emergency evacuation and all of us had to leave our classrooms” Morales said. Morales, 18-years-old and native of Willingboro, is slated to leave for Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island on Sept. 22. “Since I was young I have wanted to be a Marine and I’m ready for that next step.”
Durham agrees with the importance of showing the community the Marine Corps is there to support. “It’s important because so many of our troops died defending our country after the attack,” she said. “Not only was it military but police, firefighters, and emergency responders gave their lives trying to save others.”
This past year, New Jersey sent more than 900 men and women to Parris Island to become Marines. Each Marine has their own account of what happened on 9/11 and none will forget its impact and honor this impact by serving their country.