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 Sterling Heights firefighter Kori Sinauskas talks to American House residents Barbara Deptula and George Conant at a Patriot Day remembrance ceremony Sept. 11 at an American House Senior Living Communities complex in Sterling Heights.

Sterling Heights firefighter Kori Sinauskas talks to American House residents Barbara Deptula and George Conant at a Patriot Day remembrance ceremony Sept. 11 at an American House Senior Living Communities complex in Sterling Heights.

Photo by Donna Agusti

City officials share their stories of 9/11

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published September 19, 2018


Like many Americans, Sterling Heights Fire Chief Chris Martin still remembers what he was doing when terrorists guided airliners into the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.

“I had just gotten home from work,” he said. “I had my infant son. He was about 1 year old, and we were watching the morning news, and I saw it come in.

“And I just watched it and thought in my mind, I know exactly what’s going through the mind of the firefighters. They were trying to figure out how they can stop lives from being lost. ... So I watched the whole thing unfold, and I stayed glued to the TV.”

City officials and first responders gathered the morning of Sept. 11 at the American House Senior Living Communities complex, near Schoenherr and 14 Mile roads in Sterling Heights, to honor rescuers and those who lost their lives 17 years ago. 

The ceremony included the singing of the national anthem; appearances by Sterling Heights police officers and firefighters; and red, white and blue decorations.

During his ceremony speech, Mayor Michael Taylor said 9/11 was an attack on America that was probably unlike anything since the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. But he said it also brought communities together.

“When the terrorists attacked us that day, I think they thought they would break our spirit. I think they thought they would break our country. I think they thought they had brought us to our knees,” Taylor said. 

“And what they didn’t anticipate was that we would come back stronger and better and more prepared. And so since that day we’ve really seen, I think, a commitment to peace, a commitment to prosperity, a commitment to service.”

Martin said people still shouldn’t forget the dedication and service that the rescuers and first responders showed that day and the days following the terrorist attacks. The 9/11 attacks killed almost 3,000 people when airplanes hit the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, with one plane crashing in Pennsylvania.

“It was one of the worst days in American history, and certainly for the fire service in general, with all the firefighters that lost their lives,” Martin said.

“So 17 years or 70 years, it’s not going to soften the blow that our country took. And we owe it to the men and women who gave their lives that day to keep remembering what they did for us.”

Mayor Pro Tem Liz Sierawski, who attended the ceremony, said she also was at home with her 1-year-old son when 9/11 happened.

“I was home doing laundry,” she said. “My son is now a Marine. My husband at the time was an Air Force reservist, and he was activated after 9/11.  ... So this is something that truly means a lot to me. This is the impetus for a lot of events and chain of events in my life and my family’s life.”

Sierawski said it’s important for the public — including young people who were born after 9/11 — to remember and honor the people who died.

“They need to remember this because this is what set the stage in motion for their lives,” she said. “Freedom is not free. People have to suffer and die for those that need to stay free. … So they as youngsters need to remember that if they enjoy their life, which I’m sure they do, it’s on the shoulders of others that have come before them.”

Sterling Heights Police Chief Dale Dwojakowski said he remembers the outpouring of support the police officers received after the attacks, adding that the pendulum of public approval can swing depending on current events.

“Most love their police and firefighters,” Dwojakowski said. “After that event occurred, yeah, it was 10 times the level of support and appreciation. … But at the end of the day, we’re all cops. We answer the call 24/7.”

Dwojakowski called 9/11 a “magnifying glass of what police and firefighters are willing to do, what we all signed up to do, and our worst fears were realized that day.”

Sterling Heights resident Ken Sobocinski, 82, attended the ceremony and lives in the American House development. He said he remembers working in engineering on 9/11, and news about the tragedy was announced over the intercom system.

“It shocked us all,” he said.

Find out more about Sterling Heights by visiting or by calling (586) 446-2489.