Elkton man spurs 9/11 ceremony in honor of brother
Special from the Newark Post
— Every day for the past 15 years, Ruth Fangman has flown a small American flag in the window of her car, even keeping extras in stock in case one is damaged or lost.
It’s a small gesture she does as a way to honor the memory of her son, Bobby, and the 2,996 other people who died in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Bobby was a flight attendant on United Airlines Flight 175, which was the second plane to be flown into the World Trade Center on that fateful day. He was 33 when he died.
“It’s a hole in my heart and it never closes, that’s for sure,” she said.
Members of the Fangman family, including his brother Steve Fangman, of Elkton, were the guests of honor at a 9/11 memorial ceremony held at Newark’s city hall on Friday. City officials issued a proclamation in honor of Patriot Day and vowed to continue holding remembrances each year.
The ceremony was organized at the urging of Steve Fangman, who said that it seems like in recent years, many people have forgotten about 9/11.
“What hurts us is when on Patriot Day, you drive around and don’t see any flags. You saw them for two years after 9/11, but you don’t see them any more. We’re hoping these kind of events will inspire the country to come together again,” he said.
Robert “Bobby” Fangman was the youngest of seven siblings and grew up in Claymont, Del.
Steve described his brother as a “free spirit” who loved life and loved traveling. It was that wanderlust that drove him to become a flight attendant.
“He walked away from a job with Verizon Wireless making $70,000 a year to go be a flight attendant and do what he loved to do,” Steve said.
Bobby lived that dream for less than a year before he boarded Flight 175 in Boston the morning of 9/11. He wasn’t supposed to work that flight but had switched with another flight attendant.
Suffering from survivor’s guilt, that flight attendant later reached out to the family and told them about a chance meeting she had with Bobby the morning of his last flight. She recalled him excitedly discussing the sightseeing he planned to do after the plane landed in Los Angeles and he had some free time.
“This woman was so touched by it that she actually made that trip for him,” Steve said. “She did everything on his agenda to accomplish that for him.”
The family later learned that Bobby was the one who called his airline from the back of the plane to report the hijacking.
“I wasn’t on that plane, but I guarantee you that after he called it in, then he sat down and comforted the people around him because that’s who he was,” Steve said.
Councilwoman Marge Hadden, who spearheaded Friday’s ceremony, said remembering the victims of the terrorist attacks is important.
“To forget will deny them their place in history. To forget would be cowardly because we wouldn’t have to face the reality of that time,” she said. “We must always remember the day and all those who died and the actions of all those who stepped forward.”
Hadden hopes that Newark’s Patriot Day ceremony becomes an annual tradition and encouraged all Newarkers to fly flags at half-staff each Sept. 11.
“The 9/11 terror acts against us destroyed lives, buildings and plunged our nation into a new type of war,” she said. “But the acts didn’t destroy our will, our freedoms or our spirit. We overcame. And now it’s our job to pass along to generations to come that moment in history we lived through.”
City Manager Carol Houck also touched on that theme, noting that the students entering high school this year are the first class to be born after 9/11 and are learning about the attacks strictly as a historical event.
“That fact, in my mind, heightens our responsibility to tell the stories of courage that defined our nation that day,” she said.
Steve Fangman, whose brother Bobby was killed in the Sept. 11 attacks, says the Pledge of Allegiance at a Sept. 11 remembrance event at Newark city hall on Friday.