As the excavation of the New York City's World Trade Center site comes to a halt this week, the memory of the tragic events on September 11 and what transpired during the rescue efforts for one Perrysburg family can be summed up in 11-year-old Hannah Juan's most cherished possessions a hard hat.
Plastered with a few insignia stickers, this sixth grader's hard hat has traveled from an Owens Community College parking lot to Ground Zero and back to Hannah's home where it now occupies a place of honor after its special journey.
Across the top of the hard hat is a note scribbled in blue marker: "This hat was used by me at the WTC NYC. Thank you for caring."
This note comes from Capt. Michael Sassano, a 51-year-old New York City corrections officer on Rikers Island who was on a search-and-rescue team that assisted in the World Trade Center site cleanup after the September 11 attacks.
Hannah's hard hat was part of a truck load of supplies which included work boots, dust masks and flash lights donated by Northwest Ohio companies and the community, as well as Owens faculty, staff and students, for a Supply Drive organized by Owens students' Carrie McMullen and Sean Gregory.
On September 19, Hannah and her mother, Joanne Juan, a Financial Aid secretary at the College, dropped off their donations for the Supply Drive. The hard hat, which was a gift from her father, Ronald Juan, an engineer with Marathon Ashland Petroleum LLC in Findlay, was one of the items Hannah gave to Owens Student Government President McMullen to take with her to New York City.
With a red marker on the brim of the hard hat, Hannah wrote an inspirational message wishing the workers in New York good luck while also listing her name, hometown and grade.
"I just wanted to wish the people at Ground Zero good luck and thank them for all of their hard work with the message," Hannah said.
Due to the large volume of supplies being delivered to New York City, with some apprehension Hannah and her mother made their donations in hopes that they, in some small way, may be of help to the volunteers and rescue workers.
When the truck arrived September 20, one of the last items to be taken off the vehicle was Hannah's hard hat. Captain Sassano was so impressed with Hannah's inspirational message that he decided to personally wear the hard hat while working at Ground Zero.
Once used as protection by Captain Sassano and as inspiration to other World Trade Center rescue workers, the hard hat is now adorned with captain's bars and stickers of the U.S. flag, Correction Department for the City of New York and Correction Emergency Unit.
Captain Sassano even made note, without knowing Hannah's exact whereabouts, to track down the little girl and return the hard hat.
"Our family had goose bumps for a week after receiving the phone call that we were going to get the hard hat, while also learning that it was used during the relief efforts at Ground Zero," said Hannah's father, Ronald.
Also adding, "When the hard hat was returned, I noticed that there was dust on the inside, which for all intensive purposes came from the World Trade Center site. Realizing that this hat was actually used to assist in the relief efforts really brought the events of this tragedy into our home."
According to Joanne, Hannah has had the hard hat in her possession for just a few weeks, but has already taken her prized possession to show her classmates at Commodore Elementary School in Perrysburg and to visit Owens Community College President Christa Adams, Ph.D., this past week.
"If I could pass along a message to Captain Sassano, I would thank him for everything he has done to assist in the relief efforts," Ronald said. "It also takes a very special person to track down a little girl, thanking her for the inspirational hard hat, and then sending it back to her."
Eight months later, the hard hat, which was thought to have little hope of survival on its journey to New York City, to assist the men and women at Ground Zero, is back in Hannah's possession albeit a little dirty and beat up from the wear and tear while protecting Captain Sassano.
"It is truly a wonderful thing that Hannah did," McMullen said. "It is inspiring to see that this hard hat has come full circle. This just goes to show that one person can make a difference."
Owens Community College is the fastest-growing community college of its size in the nation. On the Toledo-area and Findlay campuses, Owens serves more than 36,000 credit and non-credit students. Owens is committed to providing small classes, personal attention and the lowest tuition in Northwest Ohio. Owens Community College offers over 100 career-oriented programs and majors in Agriculture, Business, Health, Public Service, Skilled Trades, Industrial and Engineering Technologies. Owens students also can earn the first two years of a bachelor's degree with a smooth transfer to any area four year college or university.
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