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Sacred Heart remembers 9/11

SALISBURY — Students at Sacred Heart Catholic School were not alive on Sept. 11, 2001. So this year, the school sought to educate them about what happened that day.

Middle school students heard Monday from Officer Roberto Vazquez during an afternoon assembly. Vazquez is a former New York Police Department officer assigned to the Manhattan Task Force.

On 9/11, Vazquez was five blocks from the World Trade Center working in an undercover operation. He was one of the first officers to respond to the terrorist attacks. Vazquez worked in both rescue and recovery at Ground Zero. When the towers collapsed, he lost his partner, Ramon Suarez.

At Monday’s assembly, he described in detail the events leading up to the terrorist attacks and the months of recovery afterward. He talked about how Trinity Church, which stood near the WTC twin towers, was remarkably undamaged. He said it was a sign of faith and hope as he and hundreds of police officers and firefighters moved rubble for 17 hours a day, seven days a week for months following 9/11.

Vasqiez helped Sacred Heart students understand the enormity of the destruction — which covered 18 acres, and 1.2 million people lived and worked in the area — and how he ran for 10 blocks as black smoke and debris surrounded him when the first tower fell.

He also explained the respect for the bodies recovered in the aftermath.

Vazquez served in the Marine Corps on active and reserve duty for more than 25 years. He is a veteran of Operation Desert Storm and served four tours oversees, and he has received multiple decorations. Currently, Vazquez is a law enforcement officer for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

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