9-11 survivor, rescuer speaks to RE students

A former Secret Service agent who helped thousands escape from Manhattan in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, shared stories of heroism and a powerful message of remembrance during assemblies at RE's Upper School and Middle School on Sept. 11.
Dennis Letts, an agent assigned to the New York field office that was then housed in the World Trade Center, helped direct those running to safety from the North Tower and then, after the towers collapsed, commandeered ferries to deliver stranded victims and evacuees to New Jersey.

“Nothing in my training could have ever prepared [me] for what we were about to face,” he told Upper School students in the morning. “It was a scene of complete devastation.”

Letts remembered the day for both its unspeakable horrors and countless acts of selflessness and bravery. He shared stories of civilians risking their lives to carry complete strangers to safety. Rescue workers running up staircases to try to help those trapped. Later, as people crowded on a sea wall to board one of the ferries that served as impromptu rescue vehicles, he heard a male voice call out: “Women and children, first.” Without complaint, men immediately stood back, offering seats to others.

“For one brief period of time, we were truly the United States of America,” said Letts, now a security representative for the NFL’s New York Giants. “Often our finest hours occur on our darkest days … I was really inspired by what I saw, those acts of bravery from people that you wouldn’t expect.”

Students in Greg Cooper’s “America in the Post-9-11 World Honors” met Letts at the end of last year during a class trip to New York City. One of those students, Grace Waibel ’19, introduced him as “a real American hero” before the Upper School assembly. Upper School students also had the opportunity to visit with Letts in the Pagoda for a more personal question-and-answer session.

Letts sought to not only inform students, but also inspire them.

“September 11 is now known as a national day of remembrance and service in honor of those who gave their lives that day,” he said. “I ask each and every one of you to find a way to serve others … I ask on this solemn day that each of you resolve to make a difference.”
Founded in 1903, Ransom Everglades School is a coeducational, college preparatory day school for grades 6 - 12 located on two campuses in Coconut Grove, Florida. Ransom Everglades School produces graduates who "believe that they are in the world not so much for what they can get out of it as for what they can put into it." The school provides rigorous college preparation that promotes the student's sense of identity, community, personal integrity and values for a productive and satisfying life, and prepares the student to lead and to contribute to society.