(WFRV) — Green Bay Metro Fire Department Assistant Chief Rob Goplin still remembers that Tuesday morning, 20 years later.
“It truly seems like yesterday that it happened. I remember it very, very vividly,” he told Local 5.
20 years have passed since the September 11th attacks.
In those first few moments in 2001, nobody knew we’d still be reflecting back on this day two decades later.
“I got a phone call from a friend on the department,” Assistant Chief Goplin recalls. “He said, ‘Hey did you see what’s going on in New York?’ At that time it was believed that a small aircraft had crashed into one of the buildings.”
As the story developed and the news made its way to Northeast Wisconsin, safety became a top concern.
“In those first few hours after the initial attack the concern was: Is that it or is there going to be more somewhere else in the country?” Goplin said.
On that day in 2001: Fears spread, flights were canceled, and cabs were called to the Green Bay Austin Straubel International Airport, taking stranded would-be passengers anywhere else.
First responders like Goplin, who was four years into his career with the Green Bay Metro Fire Department, faced a brand new world.
“Terrorism was really kind of viewed as something that, it might happen, but it was pretty much viewed as something that happened overseas, not in the homeland,” he said.
The September 11th attacks sparked uncertainty.
“How do we protect against something we might not even have thought of yet?” Goplin said, describing the feelings of unease he and other public safety officials faced.
At the same time, something else spread across the country: patriotism.
Homes, businesses, and schools were all decorated in red, white, and blue, sharing messages of unity.
Local 5 covered the newfound spirit of patriotism in a 2001 story, in which an area woman was quoted as saying: “I never felt patriotism until this week. It was always a personal struggle with me understanding my own parent’s generation, but as of last Tuesday, I fully understand.”
People did more than decorate with American flags: in the days and even the hours following the attacks, people across the country flocked to blood centers to do what they could to help.
“By noon that day, donors started showing up at blood centers across the US,” John Hagins, President & CEO of The Community Blood Center remembered, “including here in Appleton, and really did try to have an impact, a positive impact on their community.”
It was a small way to help when so much was uncertain.
“At a time of great tragedy, people look to see what it is that they can do positively to have an impact, and a blood donation, blood center like ours, is also a place to connect,” Hagins explained. “You’re meeting people that are there to do good things in their community, you’re sharing your experience, and you’re pulling together to do something positive.”
That kind of positivity was reflected upon at a church service in Allouez shortly after the attacks that Local 5 attended: “Look at the response of the American people, look at you, look at everybody else who did so much.”
Every night this week leading up to 9/11, Local 5 will be bringing you a feature story on how our local community was impacted, and how we continue to remember the hundreds of fallen heroes.