by Baylyn S. (Grade 9)
One may wonder, “Why should I salute the flag?” While most will speak of the American Revolution and how the Colonies gained freedom over two hundred years ago, I have a closer connection to the flag: the service my mother’s childhood classmate paid to the United States following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
On September 11, 2001, Greg Chevalley, a Brooklyn FDNY firefighter, heard the traumatic news that two planes had crashed into the Twin Towers in Manhattan. Always one to pitch in, he made his way to Ground Zero, where he continued to work valiantly cleaning and helping amongst the wreckage.
However, this was not Greg’s last heroic act. On February 3, 2010, at around three in the morning, Greg rushed to a fire call in Brooklyn in the midst of a windy snowstorm. Although the weather posed challenges, he courageously crawled up a stairway to rescue an unconscious man, then successfully dragged him to safety. A true hero, Greg was never afraid to put somebody else’s life before his own.
Greg later developed Stage Four lung cancer due to the toxic fumes he inhaled while handling debris after 9/11. In the time right after the attacks, there was no information about what gasses saturated the air, so he and the other firefighters were not properly equipped to fight the chemicals. After cancer treatments and time in the hospital, Greg sadly passed away. However, based on the selfless person he was, he would likely give his life again. People who knew him describe him as having a “heart of gold.” Greg is a perfect example of an admirable American citizen and a wonderful role model for everybody, children and adults alike.
A special soul gave his life to revive our country in a time of despair. Greg will forever be remembered for his willingness to step up and do whatever was needed, even though it eventually meant his life. He cared about America as a country and its citizens. Without people like Greg Chevalley, the US would never have recovered from such a distressing event. His compassion for and service to our country are why I honor the American Flag.