Officer Doug Dillon, who serves as the Supervisor of Security for the Garfield Heights City Schools, has a simple request as the country pauses for remembrance on the 19th anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attack on our nation: Always remember. His special connection to the tragic events of that day, and the mourning that would take place months and even years into the future, retain tremendous significance even to this day. Officer Dillon served as a volunteer member of the Critical Incident Stress Management response team, and what he saw, and those he counseled in the months after 9/11 have left an indelible imprint on him. In addition to his security role with the District, he hopes that students and staff who weren’t even born yet when the attacks occurred, can have an understanding of the events of that day so that everyone can remember and honor the senseless loss of life.
In his capacity with the Critical Incident Stress Management team of Cuyahoga County, Officer Dillon was one of several volunteer public safety officials who traveled to Ground Zero shortly after 9/11 to meet with the New York City Police Department first responders in the tragedy’s aftermath. Specifically, he counseled police officers who helped with disaster control, survivors, body extraction, and more of the most gutwrenching tasks associated with the events. For a week straight, Officer Dillon met with up to 100 first responders a day, giving them the gift of his full attention. “Listening was a skill that I greatly developed engaging with 9/11 first responders,” says Officer Dillon. Investing 12-14 hours each day during his volunteer stay, he counseled nearly 500 public safety officials who simply needed to talk through their experiences to ensure their own mental health stability. The most horrific personal stories were shared with Officer Dillon of what was witnessed in light of the attacks on the World Trade Center complex. After listening, he provided first responders with resources and information to help in the months ahead. As a member of the C.I.S.M. team of Cuyahoga County since 1996, Officer Dillon had been thoroughly trained to encourage communications with people who were involved in such disastrous events. What he heard in the months following 9/11, is precisely what he hopes our country never forgets.
To honor the thousands of lives lost on September 11th, Officer Dillon wears a polo shirt that displays an emblem that reads: Gone, but Never Forgotten. At his home, he flies a flag which commemorates those who perished. And every school year, he is asked by teachers to come in and speak to classes about the men and women he counseled in the aftermath of 9/11. With the display he has made for such presentations, he is dedicated to showing students and staff that even though individuals perished and families were devastated forever, they can be honored with our remembrance of them. He also shares with students how the nation was unified in the wake of these attacks, and that how everyone pulled together to show respect and pay tribute to those who were lost.
When you see Officer Dillon, thank him for helping us to remember those who lost their lives. He is a special individual who brings a special place of solemn honor to 9/11 and this school District.