Fort Drum Remembers 9/11: How 9/11 changed the Watertown-Fort Drum relationship
You can't think of Watertown without thinking of Fort Drum, and you can't think of Fort Drum without thinking of Watertown. They are two very different cultures that have come together as one. In part three of his series on Fort Drum and September 11th, our Brian Dwyer takes a look at the relationship between the two communities and how since that day ten years ago, the two have trusted and relied on one another.
To view our videos, you need to
install Adobe Flash 9 or above. Install now.
Then come back here and refresh the page.
FORT DRUM, N.Y. -- Prior to 9/11, Fort Drum was open to all. Military or not, most everyone could come and go as they pleased. But after those attacks, security took over.
"Going from a completely open post to a post where you've got to show your identification cards to get in," said NNY-Fort Drum AUSA President Joe McLaughlin. "I think that's a big change in the community and its something difficult for people outside the gates to understand."
It was a move that could have divided Fort Drum from the community that surrounded it, especially for the few years ID couldn't even get you on. But somehow, the bond actually got stronger.
"It's all about taking care of each other," FDRLO Chair Beth Fipps added. "Immense pride in understanding what families give up when their soldier leaves for 12 months, soon to be 9 months but none the less very difficult what families are asked to do and the dangers soldiers put themselves in, it makes you proud to be American and proud to be in the North Country."
And that pride is everywhere. It's on road signs, stores and more. It is never more obvious though, than in some of the new organizations that have formed in the community.
Some include The Fallen and Wounded Soldier fund that sends care packages to local soldiers recovering far away. Operation Yellow Ribbon gives military families great events and concerts to get away from it all. It's that support that keeps people here long after the Army.
"That means the community has embraced them," McLaughlin said. "That means they've got a decent place to live and they're going to stay here. One hand washes the other and they're going to spend their money in the area."
And because of that, Watertown has been able to avoid many of troubles others have seen in this economy.
"I can remember unemployment here back in the early 80s getting up near 20%. We don't see those kind of swings anymore. That's largely due to Fort Drum. Now would everyone like to see more jobs and more opportunities? Of course they would." Watertown Mayor Jeff Graham said, noting that he does see people tired of the war and exhausted by it.
But that's not all. The influx of soldiers means the people in Watertown get a taste of world they may not have otherwise.
"Interesting people," Graham said about people new to the city, including those who visit his business. "They come from other places. They're not all Giants and Bills fans. They have different backgrounds and different interests and I kind of enjoy that experience."
"If you had to say there was a light that shines through all this, it's brought the community even closer together in support of the people that are defending our freedom," McLaughlin added.
And part of the these two communities working together includes another branch of service affected on September 11th: fire service.
Saturday, we'll meet one firefighter who not only offered up his help on the days following the attack, but continues to serve in the North Country, honoring those who died on 9/11.