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Retired FDNY 9/11 survivor to speak at MVNU on 9/11

MOUNT VERNON, Ohio — Mount Vernon Nazarene University is partnering with the City of Mount Vernon to present “9/11 Never Forget … 20 years later,” on Saturday, Sept. 11, the 20th anniversary of 9/11.

Keynote speaker for the event will be Chris Edwards, an author and retired New York City firefighter and survivor of 9/11 who spent two weeks at ground zero searching through the debris. Until 2020, Edwards traveled the country with the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation’s mobile 9/11 museum, including a stop at Ariel-Foundation Park in Mount Vernon in 2019.

He will share his personal account of Sept. 11, 2001, and the burning in his soul to keep alive the memories of all the brothers who were lost.

“Everybody knows where they were when news of 9/11 reached them. When I was approached about partnering with the City of Mount Vernon, my response was immediate—Yes,” said MVNU President Dr. Henry W. Spaulding II. “It is essential for the University and the city to stand together in unity as we remember this day and thank God for His providential grace.”

The program, which is free and open to the public, begins at 4 p.m., in Ariel Arena on the MVNU campus. Doors open at 3 p.m. The first 600 attendees will receive a free handheld American flag. Special seating will be available for all first responders, veterans and their families. In keeping with current MVNU COVID-19 protocols, face masks will be required.

Edwards’ decision to mark this historic anniversary in Mount Vernon is humbling to organizers.

“When Chris agreed to spend Sept. 11 with us in Mount Vernon, I knew that the day would be filled with emotion,” said Dena Hess McKinstry, even coordinator. “His stories and memories of 9/11, and the days that followed, are very powerful.”

“I think it is extremely important to all communities because we remember where we were when the tragedy happened,” said Matt Starr, Mount Vernon Mayor and event co-coordinator. “Taking time out to remember those who chose to run into danger and save others is the hope we continue to thirst for.”

In addition to Edwards, the program includes:

•Jaidyn Hawkins, a student at East Knox Middle School, singing the national anthem;

•Knox County Career Center Air Force JROTC Color Guard;

•MVNU Collegians Chorale performance of Peter Lutkin’s “The Lord Bless You and Keep You,” under the direction of Dr. Bob Tocheff;

•A 21-gun salute and taps by the Knox County Joint Veterans Council; and

•A closing benediction led by Dr. Spaulding.

Additional information is available on the Facebook page “9/11 Never Forget-20 Years Later,” or email Hess McKinstry at or co-coordinator Paul McNeal at

Mount Vernon Nazarene University is a private, four-year, intentionally Christian teaching university for traditional age students, graduate students, and working adults. With a 327-acre main campus in Mount Vernon, Ohio, MVNU emphasizes academic excellence, spiritual growth, and service to community and church. MVNU offers an affordable education both in-seat and online to more than 2,100 students from 42 states and nine foreign countries.