A hidden hero is among the halls of Smith-Cotton High School.
Kevin Fox, the head of janitorial services at S-C, was a lieutenant firefighter at the Seattle Fire Department and joined hundreds of others to clean up the wreckage left behind at Ground Zero after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York City. Fox’s department was part of the WorldWide Rescue Team called to help clean up the rubble that remained at the World Trade Center.
He walked to Ground Zero from the Brooklyn Bridge after being dropped off by a bystander who saw him hitchhiking.
“I arrived at around 3 a.m. and just sat there until the sun came up.” Fox said. “I was so overwhelmed and scared from the sight of it and just all the chaos.”
Fox arrived in New York three days after the attack and stayed for three weeks, helping clean up debris, bodies and ashes.
“The whole time I was just breathing in what I thought was dust, but what I came to realize was ashes from all the bodies,” he said.
Fox stayed three miles from Ground Zero and walked to work every day.
“People would see us in our uniforms walking to work, and they would all line up and cheer, and even touch us,” he said. “I think it gave them a sense of healing and made them feel like they could be a part of helping.”
Fox will be donating his full uniform to be put on display at S-C and has been a guest speaker for all of teacher Marina Scheiner’s classes. Scheiner is a FACS teacher at S-C and met Fox at a community benefit for Child Safe of Central Missouri Inc.
“After hearing about his story, I asked him to come in to speak to my classes,” Scheiner said. “It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the students because of how disconnected they are to 9/11 and New York; being so small when it happened and being in the middle of Missouri, they don’t get to experience it like others have.”
This was Fox’s first time being asked to give a presentation about his experiences. Scheiner said the students got to try on his firefighter hat and after his presentation her students wrote thank-you notes and responses about their experience with him.
“The students had such a positive reaction to it and it kind of brought the event to life for them by having someone who was actually there,” Scheiner said.
Fox received the responses and was taken aback by how meaningful they were.
“The responses and thank-you notes are a sense of hope for me. The students revealed a side of them that I’ve never seen,” Fox said.
“I hope by donating my uniform it’ll inform the students of what happened on Sept. 11 and by being an alumni of Smith-Cotton, create a legacy for the Class of 1980.”
Haily Zaremba is a student at Smith-Cotton High School.