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updated: 2/24/2011 5:14 PM

Sugar Grove man who was at ground zero urges remembrance of 9/11

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  • Mike Fagel of Sugar Grove served three months on the cleanup of the World Trade Center site in 2001 with his work for the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

      Mike Fagel of Sugar Grove served three months on the cleanup of the World Trade Center site in 2001 with his work for the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
    Courtesy of Mike Fagel

 
 

Mike Fagel hopes you will do two things Saturday.

First, remember what happened on Sept. 11, 2001. Think about the victims, and contemplate what the terrorist attack has meant to the United States.

Second, think about how ready you are to deal with an emergency - be it a terrorist attack, flood, fire or tornado.

"Sept. 11 in my humble opinion is a sacred day," said Fagel, who lives in Sugar Grove and worked for FEMA. "I would like people to stop and pause and reflect on what it means, and the lives affected. ... This event is still going on for thousands and thousands of people."

Fagel said the time he spent in service there "was a life-changing experience."

Fagel is an expert in public safety. From 1995 to 2004 he worked for the Federal Emergency Management Agency. He now has his own business, Aurora Safety, offering instruction and consultation on safety-related issues. He teaches at Benedictine and Northwestern Universities, and is an independent contractor for the Department of Homeland Security on a job at Argonne National Laboratory.

He was assigned immediately after the attack to ground zero, and spent three months in New York City, as a liaison to the Fire Department of New York City. At first he was a logistics officer, gathering whatever was needed, be it people to work, equipment or supplies. Later, he was a safety officer, developing safety and health plans for the workers at the 16-acre site.

"It didn't matter what patch was on my sleeve," he said of the close relationship he developed with the fire department. He still talks with the fire chief he worked with, who is now retired. "We are hard and fast friends."

But he worries that with the passage of time, people have become forgetful and complacent. "It does fade in memory," he said. In years past, he would usually attend a memorial service; he spoke at one at the Paramount Theater in Aurora. "Those (memorial services) have waned," he said, and it bothers him. Saturday he'll likely call the New York firefighters with whom he worked.

"It was a pretty telling event in American history," he said.

Personal safety

Fagel obviously has a passion for safety work. Sept. 11 spurred the federal government to declare September National Preparedness Month, starting in 2004. The campaign urges residents to prepare to take care of themselves the first few days after a disaster or terrorist attack. With many local governments cutting budgets due to the poor economy, services may be stretched and not readily available in a crisis, Fagel said.

He suggests people visit ready.gov. where there is information on how to prepare emergency kits, including packing a bag with what you will need to get by for three days, getting a weather-alert radio, and talking to your family about what to do in an emergency, he said.

"The world has changed and people must be responsible for their own safety," Fagel said. "We need to build in our own resiliency."

Sept. 11, he said, should "Be a time to reflect. Be a day of action."

Library plans 9/11 event

The Sugar Grove Library and the Library Friends will host a 9-11 remembrance Saturday at 125 S. Municipal Drive.

The event will honor members of the Sugar Grove fire and police departments.

From 9:30 to 10:30 a.m., visitors can see public safety equipment and meet police officers and firefighters.

The library's display of materials related to Sept. 11, 2001, will become available for loan Saturday.

The library is open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. For details, visit sugargrove.lib.il.us.

 

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