Dusty YouTube clips. Most likely viewed on devices that did not exist in 2001.
That is 9-11 to today’s high school students: A sci-fi horror movie played out over and again, as many times as the viewer wishes to see it. An event so horrific and yet so mesmerizing — you feel guilty acknowledging that, but it’s true — that it doesn’t seem real. It couldn’t have been.
But it was. Ed Carroll lived it.
Sixteen years later, his daughters are determined to Never Forget that which they themselves don’t really remember.
They want their peers to do the same. Time marches on, forever undefeated.
Ed Carroll was a 42-year-old FDNY firefighter, with 15 years on the job, living on Long Island with his wife Debbie and three young daughters on Sept. 11, 2001. Off duty at the time, he was laying kitchen flooring at his home with a department buddy when news broke on television that a second plane hit the South Tower at the World Trade Center in Manhattan.
“We knew right there,” he said, “that this was no accident.”
He immediately dropped what he was doing. A total FDNY recall was underway, which meant that all personnel were required to report to duty. A firefighter housed in the South Bronx — Engine 96, Ladder 54 — Carroll left his family on Long Island and began a nightmare commute, 90 minutes on a good day, to what was the World Trade Center. He finally arrived in Lower Manhattan, nearly eight hours after departing, at 5 a.m. on Sept. 12.
At Ground Zero, he discovered everyone from House No. 5 was lost — his buddies from where he broke in with FDNY in 1986. No survivors.
Ed Carroll wouldn’t see his family again for five days. He worked the next 90.
The Carroll daughters are collectively bound by a love of soccer. When an on-the-job injury to his right hand prematurely ended Ed Carroll’s FDNY career in 2006, he and his wife packed up from Miller Place, Suffolk County on Long Island and relocated the family to Birdsboro the next year.
Brittany was oldest daughter when 9-11 happened. She was five. She is 21 now, junior-eligible, though she is currently on hiatus for a semester from school. She hopes to transfer to West Chester University in the spring, from Alvernia, to complete her college career. A soccer injury while at Widener cost her a season.
“I recall getting off the bus from (morning) Kindergarten,” Brittany said, “and usually my mom would be waiting for me and she wasn’t, so I was a little confused. I walked in the house and from the hallway you could see the TV. My mom was watching it and I saw smoke coming from the towers. I thought it was a movie.”
Brittany watched the towers fall. She is the only daughter with any first-hand recollection of that day.
Taylor Carroll was three years old. She is 19 today, currently enrolled at West Chester. She was a starting midfielder during the Blazers’ District 3-AAA championship season in 2015.
“I think it is so vital that we continue to remember 9-11 in school,” Taylor said. “Soccer is a way to do that. I think it’s becoming lost and that upsets me. … There needs to be something. If I have to come back from college and arrange something, I’ll do it.”
Cassidy Carroll was a baby. Today, she is a 17-year-old senior at Daniel Boone High School, a starting outside midfielder for the Blazers.
“My dad picked through the rubble for three months,” Cassidy said. “The hardest part for him was finding body parts.”
Their father, now 58, is a living reminder that 9-11 was no sci-fi horror clip on YouTube.
The idea first came to Brittany when she matriculated to Boone as a freshman in 2010.
“I wanted to honor my dad, and I felt it (9-11) wasn’t something that was really mentioned or brought up in school,” she said. “I felt people were forgetting or not wanting to bring it up. It was just another day.
“I remember being in elementary school in New York and that (the anniversary) was always a hard day. Kids would go to counselors. Not that they remembered it so well, but their families were affected by it in some way.”
Girls’ soccer in District 3 was still a spring sport at the time, so the first tribute occurred in 2011. Ed had previously come to speak to Brittany’s classmates about 9-11, but the task had become too difficult for him. His eldest daughter picked him up.
“That season, we had a game on 9-11,” Brittany said. “I asked my parents if (a tribute) would be OK. My dad was thrilled. He was crying.
“I talked to my coach. He thought it was a great idea and we got the t-shirts together. We just needed approval from the principal and athletic director, and they were both on board. We had a moment of silence and wore the shirts in warm-ups. We talked a bit about my dad and told his story. It was amazing. Everyone came together.”
After Brittany graduated, middle daughter Taylor picked up the baton, then handed it to Cassidy upon her departure. Two seasons ago, Cassidy scored a goal for the Blazers on Sept. 11. She recalls being a ball-runner at the first tribute, when Brittany was playing.
During each succeeding campaign, the Daniel Boone girls’ soccer team has either played on Sept. 11 or 12, with a commemorative tribute each time, at home or on the road.
“Everybody we knew was personally affected by it,” Debbie said. “The girls grew up with it. I just think the kids should be continually educated about it.”
It reached its natural conclusion Monday night at Exeter, after seven tributes, with Cassidy’s final high school game on the date. It is something the family hopes the team will continue.
“I think it’s really important,” Brittany said. “Not to sound ridiculous, but I think my generation has gotten a little caught up in themselves, a little selfish. That day, there were people running into those buildings, going to save strangers. They didn’t know who they were. They knew they were possibly going to die. They did it with no hesitation, with no doubt in their minds.
“My dad left his wife and his three young babies to go down there. It’s a part of history. It happened to our country and it shook our country so deeply. Nothing like that had ever happened before, except Pearl Harbor. There are people missing family members. It’s important for people to reflect on that.”