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University of Missouri honors first responders who deployed to New York on Sept. 11, 2001


The City of Columbia and the University of Missouri held a Patriot Day ceremony Monday to remember the lives lost and the action of first responders 22 years ago in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

In all, there were 62 Missouri Task Force One members who were deployed to New York City to help with the aftermath of 9/11. Sixteen of them were in attendance at today's ceremony, including task force leader Doug Westhoff.

He said videos and pictures do not even begin to compare to the damage they witnessed.

"As we were walking in on one of our first shifts, we were walking by hundreds of people that had pictures of their loved ones taped to their chest, holding pictures, begging for you to help them locate their loved ones," Westhoff said.

MOTF1 was in New York City for ten days helping with the aftermath and looking for survivors. To this day, Westhoff said he doesn't feel like he should be called a 'hero,' because he was just doing his job by responding. But speakers at Monday's event said otherwise.

Richard Barohn, executive vice chancellor for health affairs at MU Health Care, said when he thinks of Patriot Day, he thinks of duty, honor, sacrifice and pride.

"On that day and in so many others since then, I have been struck by the bravery and patriotism of our nation's first responders," Barohn said.

Columbia Mayor Barbara Buffaloe also spoke at Monday's event, telling ABC 17 News she is honored and thankful for those who responded to the 9/11 attacks in 2001, and for the community's first responders today.

"Columbia, Missouri, but also the Midwest, we are caring communities," Buffaloe said. "We step up when people need help, and I think that's just evident in this, and also those who are willing to continue to step up every day."

Buffaloe said it's important to remember this day every year, even 22 years later, to show recognition for community members who served, to recognize those who lost their lives or loved ones and also to come together.

"It's a time to do that remembrance, but also to work together as we continue to build the communities that we want in the future," Buffaloe said.

Westhoff said the images of 9/11 will stick with him forever. When he thinks about that day, he said it was very sad, but there were parts that were rewarding, including the country coming together.

"Unfortunately, we focus a lot of our time and energy on things that were negative, but there were so many positives that came with that," Westhoff said. "The efforts that were made by people all over the country that poured their heart and soul into that response."

He said it's important to remember 9/11 every year.

"I think history has proven that if we don't acknowledge history, we're destined to repeat it," Westhoff said. "This was an attack on our homeland, on our home soil, and that can never happen again."

Monday's event began with a wreath-laying ceremony at 10 a.m. at the Columns on MU's campus.

It also included a procession, a presentation of the colors by the Joint Services Color Guard and City Honor Guards and a helicopter flyover. Other groups in attendance included Mizzou's ROTC branches, Columbia Fire Department, Columbia Police Department, Mizzou Student Veterans Association, Mizzou Military Veterans Alumni Association, Fire and Rescue and MUPD.

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Morgan Buresh

Morgan is an evening anchor and reporter who came to ABC 17 News in April 2023.


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