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Schneider 9/11 relief supply driver looks back 20 years later

Otis Day and Bob Seidl stand in front of a wall displaying framed 9/11 memorabilia. The frames behind them display a piece of debris from the World Trade Center, a letter of thanks from the NYFD Chief and a front-page news image from 9/11.

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

On September 11, 2001 Bob Seidl was in the middle of instructing a HazMat course at Schneider’s Green Bay Training Center when he heard the news that planes had crashed into the World Trade Center towers.

That same day, Bob offered his services to drive relief supplies to New York.

Within the next three days, Schneider had organized a relief effort dubbed “Operation Noble Eagle” to deliver donations from Wisconsin to New York City. Bob was one of three drivers who stepped up to take part in the relief effort.

We decided to sit down with Bob to talk about what he remembers about that journey he made 20 years ago, how he commemorates 9/11 every year and what he learned from the tragic event.

Bob reflects on 9/11 after 20 years

Although Bob said he has a lot of strong memories from his experience at Ground Zero, one that specifically stood out occurred after he had spent the day delivering supplies to first responders.

“I went to park on the Jersey side of the river and just sat there by the docks right across from the pile,” said Bob. “I just sat there in the driver’s seat all night watching that pile. The helicopters flying over it with spotlights, the water being dumped on it. The next thing I knew, the sun was coming up.

A frame displays a square piece of steel recovered from the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. The frame reads “Steel recovered from the World Trade Center presented to Midwest Communications for your support in our time of need.”

How Bob commemorates 9/11

Although 9/11 continues to be a difficult topic for Bob, he said there is one particularly meaningful tradition that he performs every year to honor those who were impacted by 9/11.

Before departing for Operation Noble Eagle, Bob had attached two small American flags to his hood mirrors, which he kept on his truck until he returned home. Those flags may be small, but Bob said that they carry extraordinary meaning.

“It’s the little things,” Bob said. “I still have the two little flags that we had on our hood mirrors that we took to New York that day. I take them out on September 11 and put them in a place of prominence in my yard for a few hours.”

The small American Flags that Bob had attached to his truck during his trip to Ground Zero are displayed back to back in his garage.

Remembering lessons learned on the road to Ground Zero

This tragic event influenced nationwide thought and reflection, and Bob said he learned a great deal in the days following 9/11.

The following are just a few valuable lessons Bob learned during his time driving for Operation Noble Eagle that he still feels hold true 20 years later.

We are stronger together

One of the biggest things that stuck with Bob after 9/11 was how quickly the nation came together to support one another after the terrorist attacks.

From the lines of people waiting to donate relief supplies, to the overpasses lined with flags, banners and people, Bob said there was an overwhelming sense of togetherness across the nation.

“I had never seen that kind of unity,” Bob said. “That horrible event really brought the country together in a way that I had never seen in my life.”

A little generosity goes a long way

Upon arriving in New York City, Bob distributed food, water, gloves, boots and other essential supplies to first responders at Ground Zero. Bob said the generosity and support from Wisconsinites truly made a difference that day.

“These big, tough New Yorkers just couldn’t believe we were doing this for them,” Bob said. “They just couldn’t believe that people from Green Bay cared so much about them and the gratitude they showed was unbelievable.”

Not all heroes wear capes.

Bob said people have called him a hero for taking part in Operation Noble Eagle, but he feels he isn’t the one who deserves the credit.

“I just happened to be in the position to help,” Bob said. “Anybody would have done what we did. It was all the ordinary people from Northeast Wisconsin doing extraordinary things and donating all of those supplies.”

Bob said he was just doing the job of a truck driver, delivering supplies.

“We take care of America as truck drivers,” Bob said. “It’s what we do. The country needs it, so we get it done, and 9/11 was no different. Those people needed relief, supplies and help and we provided that. “

Read about Bob’s involvement in Operation Noble Eagle

Learn more about Bob’s journey to deliver supplies to New York City after 9/11 in his previous blog. Learn what he saw when he arrived at Ground Zero and why he will never forget that tragic day.

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Schneider Guy loves the "Big Orange." He's passionate about the trucking industry and connecting people to rewarding careers within it. He's been the eyes and ears of our company since our founding in 1935, and he's excited to interact with prospective and current Schneider associates through "A Slice of Orange."

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