BY KAREN GERHARDINGER | MIRROR REPORTER — Wearing a mask and a jacket, Diane Peyton sat outside StoryPoint Waterville, watching as veterans lowered the U.S. flag to half-staff.
September 11, 2001 is a day that no one will forget, said StoryPoint life enrichment director Nichole Alexander, who organized a flag ceremony on September 11, 2020 – Patriot Day.
A total of 2,996 people were killed in terrorist attacks that day – on the World Trade Center towers in New York, the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and aboard a plane that crashed in Shanksville, Pa.
“Despite the fact that it was 19 years ago, it still affects us each and every day,” Alexander said.
Dozens of StoryPoint residents sat outside or watched from balconies as veterans presented the flag and observed a moment of silence.
While the day was set to remember those who were lost on 9/11, including firefighters and police officers, Alexander organized the event to honor the first responders who are part of the StoryPoint community.
“With the pandemic, we know that first responders are working nonstop to keep us safe and protected,” Alexander said. “The safety of our residents and employees is our main priority, so our partnership with the police, firefighters and EMTs is paramount.”
Since opening in August 2018, StoryPoint has had an open-door policy, welcoming police and fire personnel to stop by any time for coffee or lunch.
“They’re in here quite a bit. We have a great relationship with them,” Alexander said. “We wanted to show gratitude to the first responders who sometimes come out to help our residents.”
The facility also hosts monthly luncheons for area veterans to share a meal and a presentation.
With the pandemic, many retirement and nursing facilities have been closed to the public, but last week the residents came outside for the flag ceremony, joined by police and fire personnel from Waterville and Whitehouse, in addition to other veterans.
Veteran Carolyn Nagy, coordinator of the Women Veterans Initiative, joined the event. Soon she will be inducted into the Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame for her work in providing food, clothing and help with utility bills to families of those serving in the military.
Monclova Township resident Patrick Clinger, wearing his 101st Airborne uniform from 1969-70, joked that his name was “Corporal Klinger” – like Jamie Farr’s character in the M*A*S*H TV series.
While at a garage sale, Clinger picked up a flag and a belt with a cup to hold the flagpole, so he decided to come to the event and was asked to join in.
“I was never a flag bearer,” said Clinger, who served as an aircraft and fixed wing mechanic in the Army.
StoryPoint is home to eight veterans, Alexander said, including: Jim Bippus, Army; Denny Sullivan, Air Force; and Navy veterans LeRoy Gagle, David Haase and Bernard Leite. Joining last week’s ceremony were Marine veteran Ted Meyers and Army veterans Ben Shaver and Bob Ernsberger.
Shaver, age 95, grew up in Perry County, graduating from Moxahala High School in 1942. He served as a medic in the U.S. Army Medical Corps during World War II.
Ernsberger served in the Army in 1953-55 in Korea, returning to Toledo to work as a professional surveyor for 50 years. Like many veterans, Ernsberger said he appreciates the monthly gatherings and the opportunity to be a part of the American Legion-sponsored Memorial Day service and area Veterans Day events.
Sgt. Robb Canup and officer Tina Nicolai of the Waterville Police Department, said they are grateful for the opportunity to spend time with the StoryPoint residents that they’ve gotten to know over the past few years.
“It’s nice to be appreciated,” Canup said.