Skip to main content
You have permission to edit this article.
Readers from across nation remember, reflect on Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks
spotlight AP

Readers from across nation remember, reflect on Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks

  • 0

Lee Enterprises' news organizations asked readers to submit their memories of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Here's a sampling of readers' responses from around the United States.

Wisconsin State Journal

Madison, Wisconsin

That day, I still remember those two keywords — “Islamic terrorists” — used by some of our politicians and most mainstream media while describing the attacks. We, as Muslims, felt that day that this association of terrorism with Islam would pose a significant threat to the lives of 3.5 million American Muslims, and it did. Hate crimes against Muslims rose substantially.

Since 9/11, more people have been killed by homegrown hate groups (racially or ethnically motivated groups who advocate for the superiority of the white race and those who are anti-government) in the U.S. than by foreign terrorists.

I applaud the recent recognition by the White House that domestic terrorism is the biggest national security threat to the U.S. today. As a result, the Biden Administration on June 15, 2021, released the first-ever National Strategy for Countering Domestic Terrorism to avoid another Jan. 6 attack on our Capitol or on U.S. soil.

But we, as citizens, also have a responsibility of educating people, including the hate groups, about what made America exceptional. Let’s open our ears and hearts for each other; engage to fight our true enemy: fear, anger and hate. Recognize that diversity is our strength, unity is our power, and the U.S. constitution is our hope. Stand up for the freedom of others, while enjoying ours. And always remember that people are not born with hate; they are taught to hate. We can easily teach them how to love.

— Masood Akhtar; Middleton, Wisconsin

Hickory Daily Record

Hickory, North Carolina

That semester, I was teaching American history and civics classes at Hickory High. Between first and second periods, my department chair came into my classroom, almost sprint-walking. Without breaking stride on his way through to a neighboring classroom, he pointed at my computer and said, "Go to CNN." I could tell it was urgent. I did so immediately and quickly read what I could before class started. Of course, I was stunned numb.

This was before students had smartphones so I broke the news to my second-period class. None of us knew how to react. I was conscious of trying to convey the magnitude and sadness of what was evidently happening while remaining collected. That was almost an out-of-body experience; I heard myself say the words. I knew we were living through history. There was a heavy feeling throughout the building that day, like at a wake.

We all had a need to see images of what had happened — not out of morbid fascination but I think otherwise we just couldn't process it. It sounded impossible. I didn't have a projector for my computer screen then, so I pulled up CNN's website and turned my monitor toward the students. That website crashed for part of the afternoon. My last class got out of their desks and came forward to get a closer look. I hadn't invited them to do that but I didn't mind. They sat on the floor and we just stared in silence.

— Drew Daniels; social studies teacher at Hickory (N.C.) High School

The Pantagraph

Bloomington, Illinois

I was at a long meeting in the basement at State Farm Corporate South. When it ended, I came up to my desk and the coworker across the aisle told me a plane had hit the World Trade Center. Thinking it was a small plane, we both speculated about what kind of problem could cause a small plane to miss seeing the building.

Then we heard there was another plane. A horrible sinking feeling filled my stomach. It was deliberate. I remember stopping and saying a prayer. Soon, the cafeteria with several TVs was filled with employees watching the horror.

When I went home, it was impossible to stop watching. I remember staying up late in disbelief.

A day later, the young people from Normal West Marching Band decided to skip a competition that weekend and play at Schnucks grocery store. My two daughters were among them. Tears poured down the faces of people going in and out of the store as they heard our national anthem and other songs played. Our country stood together under one flag. I think of that today and wish it was that way now.

— Cheryl Young; Bloomington, Illinois

Sioux City Journal

Sioux City, Iowa

On Sept. 11, 2001, I was at West High giving info and tours to the new freshmen class. I was showing students where my office was located, at which time my secretary said for me to see her as soon as I was done as she had something to tell me.

She knew I was from New York so what was happening (unbeknownst to me) was more personal than most at the school. As soon as the period ended, I saw the horrific image on the TV of the buildings that went down.

I called my parents in New York to check on them and the rest of the day was trying to work and trying to digest what was happening. I remember going to a prayer service later that night. For me, it’s not so much where I was when I found out but where I needed to be afterward. As a Red Cross disaster services volunteer, I knew that when I could, I had to be there to help.

Approximately a month later, I headed to New York for three weeks to provide meals to workers and people affected by the attacks, including the firemen at Ground Zero. As much as I would love to say that the impact was so profound that I instinctively now have a better appreciation of time and spending it with loved ones, everyday responsibilities and anxieties still get in the way.

Although I will never forget the events of that day and the aftermath I saw firsthand, I still must actively remind myself each day to appreciate time, life and love.

— Bernie Scolaro; Sioux City, Iowa

Herald & Review

Decatur, Illinois

I remember 9/11 like it was yesterday. I was in Washington, D.C., about a mile from the Pentagon. I was there for a business trip and was due to take a tour of the Pentagon that very day but could not rearrange my schedule. As I heard about the towers and watched the TV monitors, the meeting was adjourned and then we heard about the Pentagon.

When I walked outside the building, it was utter chaos. People begging others to get in the car with them, saying they didn't want to be alone. Fire trucks driving on the sidewalks to maneuver the gridlock traffic trying to respond. All flights grounded and no cars being rented to leave town.

Yes, I remember the day well. I can close my eyes and still see the mental image of that day. It's hard to believe it's been 20 years. My daughter was just 1 year old and now she is 21.

— Carl Baker; Bethany, Illinois

Richmond Times-Dispatch

Richmond, Virginia

I call them “where-were-you days.” Where were you when President Kennedy was assassinated? Where were you when the Challenger exploded? Where were you at 9:45 a.m. on Sept. 11, 2001? Each holds a certain significance, but none more indelibly etched in my mind than 9/11.

Accompanying 110 students, 87 parents, and 5 other teachers, I was on the lead bus entering the gates of Mt. Vernon for Collegiate School’s annual fourth-grade trip. Twenty years ago very few people owned cell phones, but a mother on the second bus did. Her husband called minutes before our arrival to relate the horrific events from the Twin Towers and again at 9:40, with frantic news of the attack on the Pentagon.

Mt. Vernon staff greeted us, while students and parents remained on the buses, all unaware of the situation just miles away. The teachers gathered on the sidewalk to develop a plan, keenly aware nothing in our training or years of experience had prepared us for this. A quick call to our school resulted in the decision to return home immediately, as there were rumors I-95 would close.

Seeing the Pentagon smoke in the distance and witnessing Quantico vehicles race up the interstate, mobilized for what would later be called the “war on terror”— these are the tangible takeaways of 9/11. What was said on each bus to help inquisitive children and stunned parents feel calm and reassured there was and is still good in this world? My memory's less clear on that.

— Blair Chewning; Richmond, Virginia

Winston-Salem Journal

Winston-Salem, North Carolina

I was in Baltimore on business when 9/11 occurred. I could not get back to Winston-Salem as planes, trains, buses all grounded and no rental cars available. I was due to deliver the Convocation talk at the UNC School of the Arts the next day and had worked diligently on my message to the students. A friend loaned me his car and it was an eerie drive from Baltimore to Winston-Salem. Virtually no cars on the road, service stations closed, restaurants and shopping centers closed. I could see the smoke rising from the Pentagon while driving on I-95 through Washington, D.C. It was while driving and listening to the radio that I realized that the speech that I had written and practiced could not be the speech that I needed to deliver to so many high school and college students at the School of the Arts — many away from home for the first time. Thus, I stayed up virtually all night rewriting my talk.

Upon arrival at the auditorium the next day, I found a packed house. Standing room only — 1,100 kids, faculty, and staff were present. And they all stayed after the program was concluded. Almost no one left. People were simply scared and did not know what to do as we were in new territory, and for the first time, the U.S. had been attacked by terrorists on our own soil. Thank God, I offered a message of optimism, hope, and our ability to pull together as a citizenry. I still believe that today.

— John Davis III; Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Casper Star-Tribune

Casper, Wyoming

I was sleeping when it happened. I had worked the swing shift in master control at KFNB-TV the night before, getting off at 1. Now I was awakened by my mother screaming down the stairs like I had never heard her sound before.

“The World Trade Center has been attacked!”

To my sleep-filled brain, it sounded like, “The World is ending!”

I woke like a shot and ran up the stairs to find out exactly what my mom had been talking about. For all I knew, I was still dreaming because there on our TV screen was a nightmare.

One plane after another crashed on that warm September morning. Everyone was assaulted with it as the special report was on every channel. Where most could escape the coverage at work, I couldn’t. Playing the coverage was my work.

I had nothing to do at work. There were no shows to record since some had been sent via antennae on the North Tower. There were no commercials with non-stop coverage of the attack. All I could do was watch.

In watching, I almost felt I was there. That day, the most important thing I could do was be there.

I sat at a counter in front of screens that played a national nightmare. I was there so that everyone watching could be there, too. We sent firefighters, food and blood. We sent boots for the search dogs. And we sent our prayers.

I have never stepped foot at the World Trade Center or the Pentagon, but that day, I was there.

— Pamala Rush; Casper, Wyoming

The Daily Progress

Charlottesville, Virginia

On Monday, Sept, 10, 2001, I started my ninth week of a new job at the Pentagon. After Tuesday, Sept. 11, I didn’t work in the Pentagon again because my office was lost to smoke and fire.

Pre-internet, the TV gave you "breaking news." Colleagues told me about watching planes striking the World Trade Center. When the plane struck the Pentagon, I was on a phone call, and I thought it was an earthquake.

My colleagues came in, and we decided to evacuate. We streamed out the door, into the beautiful fall day. My foot kicked a piece of metal, curved with sprocket holes, and I thought how much trouble the contractors would have for leaving debris from the Pentagon’s on-going renovation. I didn’t know it was a piece of the plane.

As we rounded the corner of the building, I saw Marines running down the hill, in short sleeve dress uniforms, running toward the conflagration that burned the side of the building. Their selfless act was overwhelming, both in the moment and in retrospect.

We moved away from the building and tried to account for everyone. Having my purse, I gave $20 to someone who came out with nothing. Living one mile away, it took me hours to get home, waiting for trains and buses that weren’t running. My phone allowed someone to call family. My boss reached her husband who reached my husband to share that we were safe. Colleagues died; I am grateful to live.

— Ruth McWilliams; Charlottesville, Virginia

The News & Advance

Lynchburg, Virginia

I was in seventh grade in New York State, two hours north of New York City. My teacher came to our study hall and said, "The World Trade Center is down." We thought he meant the stock market crashed. Then he said the Twin Towers were hit by planes and collapsed. I remember the fear everyone felt, the images on constant replay on the news, the moments of silence held at school and sporting events, rejoicing when people were found alive in the rubble, feeling sad when the death toll rose. I remember people coming together and a renewed sense of patriotism. Part of me still feels some of the emotions from that day when I see the NYC skyline without those two towers.

— Becky Hollar; Lynchburg, Virginia

La Crosse Tribune

La Crosse, Wisconsin

Watching the morning news in Grand Marais, Minnesota, I could not imagine the devastation which was occurring in New York City. But I didn’t have to imagine it for long. The next week I was experiencing Ground Zero first hand as a volunteer stress counselor with the American Red Cross. I received my formal training from the La Crosse Red Cross Chapter.

Words and pictures could not begin to describe the scene. The pollution from the ashes covering everything on the ground and in the air as well as the debris all over was indescribable. Ground Zero was a horrific sight! It was an emotional experience working with the exhausted firefighters, police, first responders and medical personnel. I also spent many hours with residents who lost their apartments and possessions. The most difficult part of my job was listening to those survivors whose loved ones jumped to their deaths or were crushed in the collapsed buildings.

As a well-trained and experienced volunteer having been at more than 20 national disasters, I ended up supervising 40 mental health workers from across America. Ground Zero was a crime scene, so all of us who worked on or close to the pile had to wear special badges and identification. It would be very difficult after 20 years for me to pick out any one of many experiences or stories.

After spending a month in lower Manhattan I was ready to return home. Before I left, Mayor Rudy Giuliani gave me a large American flag which I fly often to remind me of my time on Ground Zero.

— Paul Ranum; West Salem, WI

Winona Daily News

Winona, Minnesota

On Sept. 11, 2001, I was visiting staff at Sagebrush Corporation’s library services and book rebinding plant in Topeka, Kansas. The workday was just beginning when an announcement came over the speakers; we rushed for the breakroom television. What followed was an eerily quiet week and long, contemplative rental car drive home (no planes were flying). While our family suffered no direct losses, the impact of that event would take on greater meaning later in my career.

Following the divestiture of Sagebrush’s various companies, I joined another education technology company — non-profit Scholarship America. Scholarship America administers the Families of Freedom Fund scholarships established by Bob Dole and Bill Clinton in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. I led the search for the executive director of Families of Freedom in New York City — and have since been inspired by the impact this and so many other scholarships have had on the lives of young people around the world.

The eligible pool of applicants for this scholarship has grown exponentially over the years from 3,800 (through the arduous identification of victims’ remains at the site) to nearly 7,000 (as the pool expanded to include the families of those who were lost to, or permanently disabled by, a growing list of disease and terminal illness).

As we remember those who were lost that day, I invite you to join me in the effort to raise funds for Families of Freedom scholarships by participating in the virtual 9.11 Mile Memorial Challenge, presented by Medal Dash. The event closes on Sept. 30 and $10 from every registration fee goes to support Families of Freedom. You can learn more at


— Marilee Hedberg; La Crescent, Minnesota

The Post-Star

Glens Falls, New York

I was working in a school when I heard that a plane had hit one of the towers at the World Trade Center. As I walked into the library, where teachers had the TV on, I saw the first tower fall, and became sick to my stomach, thinking that my brother-in-law and my step-brother, both EMTs in Manhattan, might be in those towers.

I frantically started trying to call my relatives, but all of the lines were tied up and I could not get through. I finally heard that they were safe but on their way to the site as was my sister’s husband, an NYPD officer. My sister sadly told me how my brother-in-law came home the first few nights covered in soot and dust, spending hours on end doing the "bucket brigade" — knowing they would not find anyone but continuing the work anyway.

My son had soccer practice that afternoon at the Jenkinsville field. I was dismayed that anyone could be having fun that day. My heart broke watching the news, knowing my family members could easily have been among those lost. My friend was a school psychologist who worked to comfort the trauma for numerous students who lost parents that day. My step-brother worked in the morgue set up on the piers. There were so many heroes that day and in the aftermath. I am proud of so many for their bravery and courage on September 11th and every day since then.

— Susan Stoya; Lake George, New York

St. Louis Post-Dispatch

St. Louis

My husband was in the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001.

He couldn't have his cellphone with him there for security reasons. He had no idea what was going on, or that the entire world was watching what was going on, including me.

I couldn't reach him and didn't know if he was dead or alive. I was able to go out of the building I was working in, about 5 miles away, and I could see the enormous black cloud that enveloped the Pentagon and a lot of Arlington.

All the phone lines in the entire metro area were jammed for hours. Both of our families tried to reach me. His wonderful dad somehow got through. He, of course, asked if Mike was OK. I lied to him and said Mike was fine. I didn't know the truth.

Mike finally got hold of me at 4 p.m. I just remembered crying. Mike was coming home to me that night. The kids didn't lose their dad, but life would never be the same again.

It was the worst day of my life ... ever. We prayed for those whose day was worse.

— Beth Meenehan; Dardenne Prairie, Missouri

Arizona Daily Star

Tucson, Arizona

For the vast majority of Tucsonans, 9/11 was a tragic event that happened 3,000 miles away. For my family, it was more than a national tragedy. As it turns out, it was a personal heartbreak, a living nightmare.

I grew up in Yuma and studied Journalism at the University of Arizona where I met a tall, funny, kind and goofy Bostonian named Jeff Coombs. After he graduated in 1981 and I in 1982, we moved to Massachusetts where the jobs were and got married two years later.

The morning of 9/11, Jeff boarded American Airlines Flight 11 bound for Los Angeles for a conference. It was four days before my 41st birthday and a week before his 43rd. Like so many across the world, I watched in absolute disbelief as my husband’s plane crashed into the World Trade Center. Panicked, I called my family, most of them in Yuma, Phoenix and Tucson. Then I had the most difficult task I’ve ever faced ─ telling our three children who were 7, 11 and 13 that “some really bad men crashed daddy’s plane into a building and now he’s not coming home.” At that moment we knew life would never be the same.

Kind and generous people offered condolences, gifts, money for the kids’ college funds, food, and so much support. To pay it forward, we created a foundation in his memory, and that has helped us heal over the last 20 years.

— Christie Schmitt Coombs; Tucson, Arizona

The Sentinel

Carlisle, Pennsylvania

I was employed at the Navy Supply Information Systems at Mechanicsburg on the morning of 9/11. Being one of several employees attending training, we were informed by the instructor that we must return to our individual offices. The Commanding Officer then informed us that the Post was under lockdown.

Living in Carlisle and working in Mechanicsburg, my thoughts went to the safety of my family and friends in Carlisle.

All televisions were tuned in on the attack, showing it repeatedly. Each showing brought additional anxiety and sadness along with questions. WHY? WHO? Those sentiments were felt throughout the office.

Then came the second attack — the Pentagon. My son was an officer in the United States Army assigned to Fort Meade. There were occasions when his job required him to work at the Pentagon. When I saw the second attack, my heart was now in my throat.

My daughter-in-law finally answered the phone after many attempts. She informed me that he did not go to the Pentagon that day and was at his office at Fort Meade. I was thankful that he was at Fort Meade, but that did not lessen my anxiety or grief for all the families who had to deal with casualties.

This attack made me aware of how quickly situations can alter our life. It gave me more compassion, concern and understanding of our first responders and the military and how important it is to stay connected to our families.

— Wanda K. Hunter; Carlisle, Pennsylvania

Napa Valley Register

Napa, California

I arrived at St. Helena Primary School in shock. Our principal called us together and advised that we give no additional information, but just listen to kids’ questions and answer directly. Good advice, but it didn’t prepare me for the next hour.

I was scared, parents were scared, children were scared. Adults were crying; children, ages five through seven, were clinging; everyone looking for answers as they arrived in Room 10. We sat on the rug. I realized my immediate task was to keep everyone calm and lessen the gut-wrenching fear we were all feeling. The horrifying tragedy was beyond anything we had experienced in our lifetimes.

This was deep breath time. Some kids knew America had been attacked and they were so frightened — it was up to me to assure them that planes were not coming to our school to dive into us, that our families were not being attacked, that they would not be killed, that they were safe with their parents and at school.

We talked until the children were done. We sang our song, “We All Soar Like Eagles,” we hugged, the kids went to snack and recess. I realized I had just bonded with a group of people that I will forever hold in my heart. These young people are in their twenties; I hope that what we did that morning together — when we weren’t sure of the future of America — serves us all as we continue to face a world of uncertainty.

— Ana Canales; teacher from St. Helena, California

Dothan Eagle

Dothan, Alabama

I am a retired FBI agent, spending 25 years with the bureau. One of the most memorable career events occurred on Sept. 11, 2001.

Just before 9 a.m., we were interrupted and told to turn on the TV — the first plane had hit the Twin Towers. While stunned and wondering if a tragic accident or not, we saw the second plane hit. Our day and the days ahead were about to take on an unprecedented focus.

Recording and running fingerprints were one of the FBI’s CJIS Division’s (our assignment) primary responsibilities. We were tasked with assembling and deploying teams of analysts to the three disaster sites to assist in processing fingerprints of the victims.

En route to the Pentagon, we were notified that all victims were being transported to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. When we arrived at Dover, the first body bags were being unloaded, ever so delicately.

It would have been a real emotional event, were everyone not so focused on the work to be done. Thinking back, it still causes stomach pains. The work was challenging in the efforts to identify from even the most unrecognizable remains.

One memorable event, while working with a technician, he removed a college class ring from a victim and asked if I had any idea of the victim’s age. It was a University of Texas class ring, dated 1975, the same year I graduated college. I still shudder thinking of that moment.

The last act performed was to drape each casket with an American flag before transport. The entire process was probably the most impressive display of national patriotism I’ve ever witnessed. I’m getting teary eyed just typing and it happened 20 years ago.

— Bobby Hamil; Headland, Alabama

Beatrice Daily Sun

Beatrice, Nebraska

Sept. 11, 2001, is a day, like others in history, where you remember what you were doing and where you were when the events unfolded. I was a firefighter on B Shift at that time and this was our duty day.

When the first tower was hit, I was doing my assigned house duties, which was cleaning the exercise room. I remember Doug Van Winkle came in and told me that one of the Twin Towers was hit by an airplane. While planes don’t normally crash into buildings, it does happen and I finished my task.

As I made my way out to the apparatus bay the rest of the on-duty crew were in front of the television watching the events unfold in New York City. Together we watched the South Tower get struck. At that moment we knew that life as we know would be forever changed.

We continued to watch in horror as the day’s events unfolded, while still going about our daily business of helping the citizens of Beatrice and Gage County.

As I reflect over the last 20 years much has changed. In the world of public safety, we have not forgotten that members of New York City Fire Department, Police Department, and Port Authority did everything in their power to save as many lives as possible that day. We lost 343 firefighters, 60 police officers, and eight EMTs or Paramedics. We honor their sacrifice and hope that when we are faced with our moment to do the right thing that we will as well.

— Brian Daake; Beatrice, Nebraska

The Times and Democrat

Orangeburg, South Carolina

I was an Infantry captain stationed at Fort Benning, Georgia, on Sept 11, 2001, having served in the Army for just over a decade with three deployments to the Middle East. I vividly remember a fellow captain telling me about a plane hitting the World Trade Center, and then watching in real time when the second plane hit.

The world changed for America in that moment as the second plane made clear this was no accident. That night, after the Pentagon was hit, Flight 91 went down, and the trade center towers collapsed (with initial estimates of tens of thousands dead).

I will never forget Democrats and Republicans in Congress holding each other and singing "God Bless America." I will never forget the nation turning to God for protection and strength following Sept. 11. I had never seen America more united and religious. America was firmly behind Operation Enduring Freedom to oust the Taliban and Al-Qaeda from power in Afghanistan.

I proudly volunteered to serve in Afghanistan a few years later. I will never regret that service, and all who served should be proud.

In the years after Sept 11, 2001, I came to a much stronger faith in God, but I am disturbed by much of America seeming to have turned away from God since the attacks. The unity and commitment to America and American values is so lacking. I can’t imagine Congress singing "God Bless America" together. I believe we need to regain our national unity and faith in reflecting on 9/11.

— Retired U.S. Army Col. Bill Connor; Orangeburg, South Carolina

The Daily News

Longview, Washington

What a horrific day! Living and working for a federal entity in Northern Virginia on 9/11 caused a lot of angst among co-workers and myself.

At 8:45 a.m. (EDT) I stopped for gas on my way to work, listening to the radio, when the DJ said an airplane had crashed into one of the towers in New York City. I went on to work and told some of my co-workers who immediately turned on the TV.

Wow, another plane had crashed into the other tower and yet another crashed into the Pentagon where one of my co-worker’s husband worked. (She was frantic to find out if her husband was OK.)

Not knowing what would happen next, federal employees were sent home; this caused a backup of traffic trying to get out of Washington, D.C., that lasted for hours.

The noise was incredible, going on 24/7 for weeks. I couldn’t step out of my house in the usually quiet Virginia suburb without hearing the military planes which were circling the Northern Virginia/D.C. area.

We later learned a couple of our co-workers, who had been in meetings in NYC, had perished in the disaster.

To this day, Sept. 11 memories bring back knots in my stomach thinking about the unknown of that day and whether our building would be the next to be demolished. It was like being in a war with the unknown.

As an original Kelsonian, it’s good to be back home.

— Kathleen Molinos; Kelso, Washington

The Times of Northwest Indiana

Munster, Indiana

Sept. 11, 2001, I was visiting family in Kennesaw Georgia. The television pictures of the crumbling of the Twin Towers filled me with an emotional combination of horror and fear and anger. Later in the day, seeking a place to pray and deal with my strong feelings, I went to the top of nearby Kennesaw Mountain, a quiet place with a lovely view of downtown Atlanta. It is a park memorializing a last ditch battle of the Civil War.

There is a tree-lined path that I have often walked on my visits to Georgia. The historic trail passes the still-entrenched cannons from the brutal conflict of 140 years earlier. I felt a rising rage that engulfed me with a sense of the chaotic stupidity of it. In the suffocating aura of that September day, I was staring at cannons that had been placed and maintained with pride as if something noble had been accomplished by their use. I had never considered myself a pacifist, but on that day I experienced a primeval anger at the blindness of the human race.

— Nancy D. Becker; Valparaiso, Indiana

Press of Atlantic City

Pleasantville, New Jersey

On Sept. 11, 2001, I was driving north on the Parkway for a morning court appearance in Jersey City. As I approached the big bridge over the Raritan, the radio host said he had gotten calls that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. I looked at the twin towers in the distance. I saw thick black smoke pouring out of one of them. I could not imagine how any pilot could crash into any building on such a brilliantly clear sunny day.

When I got on Exit 14 for Jersey City, all traffic was bumper to bumper in both directions and stopped. I was directly facing the towers. I then saw a large jet plane slowly approach. It seemed as if it were giving people on board a closer look of what was happening. Then it suddenly turned sharply into the other tower. Then the horrible fireball. I and everyone then knew somebody was using planes to kill us. I noticed one large jet plane after another taking off from Newark Airport behind me. I thought what perfect, helpless targets we all were in our cars and buses, unable to move. I was scared.

The next day, I attended a real estate closing in Atlantic City. The buyers were a Muslim couple. Nobody said a word about what happened the day before. There was no anger. No apologies. But there was no small talk. We all said just enough to get the needed papers signed and exchanged.

— Seth Grossman; Atlantic City, New Jersey

Arizona Daily Sun

Flagstaff, Arizona

We were living in Flagstaff at the time. I was getting ready for my teaching position at Northern Arizona University in the School of Communication. It was a speech day for my students. I saw what happened on television. I was shocked, as most everyone else, but I drove in and headed for my classroom.

There were TVs stationed on both sides of the corridors of the classrooms so students and staff could keep track of what was happening. Most everyone was in class that morning, with a few exceptions. My first speaker that morning was an international student from Iran, I believe. I spoke with her privately before she spoke and asked if she felt comfortable speaking. She said yes. She gave a powerful speech, and at the end of it, the entire class gave her an enthusiastic, lengthy applause. She had tears in her eyes, and so did I.

At that time, we weren't sure who was responsible for the attacks, or what countries were involved. In spite of all the raw feelings in that classroom, I was so proud of everyone who showed up for class, and especially for such an enthusiastic supportive gesture for their fellow classmate at the conclusion of her speech. I will always remember that day.

— Yvonne L. Spaulding; Flagstaff, Arizona

Kearney Hub

Kearney, Nebraska

On 9-11-2001, I woke up in the hospital holding my new baby daughter in my arms. I remember looking at her with so much peace and excitement, but that those feelings quickly turned to heartache and grief for our nation.

I remember my husband calling me and telling me about the two planes hitting the Twin Towers. I was in shock, but still not realizing that the nightmare was far from over. As the details of the attacks kept coming, all I could do is hold my baby and pray for all of those innocent people that lost their lives that day. I remember looking down at my daughter and thought it was so ironic that as a I celebrated her new life, so many people were mourning the loss of their loved ones.

As the day went on people started to panic about other possible attacks, gas prices, and how our economy was going to be affected. I remember getting out of the hospital that evening, and making my husband drive us straight to the gas station. There was a long line of cars and gas had doubled in price. Over the next few weeks my mom would come over and we would watch the news together, and just be thankful we had each other. Every day I look at my beautiful daughter I will always remember that unforgettable day and all of the innocent people that lost their lives for our country.

— Kathy Roeder; Kearney, Nebraska

Register & Bee

Danville, Virginia

I grew up in Mount Hermon and Blairs and attended Chatham High School. After I graduated from the College of William & Mary, I moved to New York to get a job in publishing. In 2001, I was a junior executive at The Economist magazine. I was at my desk in midtown Manhattan on the morning of Sept. 11. I was listening to WNYC — the New York Public Radio station — when I learned from the broadcast that a plane had hit one of the World Trade Center towers.

I walked upstairs to the editorial department to switch on a television, and watched live as the second plane hit. I remember instantly the recognition that this was no accident.

Walking outside to stare down 6th Avenue, we could see the smoke billowing from lower Manhattan. The rest of the day was a blur. In the office, journalists were trying to do their jobs — reporting on the story as it happened. Some of our fellow employees were in Lower Manhattan, running a conference that day. We tried to account for them. Emotions were high.

With some fellow employees, I tried to donate blood, but the lines to do so were too long. As it would later become clear, there would be little need for it anyway — there were few survivors when the towers fell.

By the time I made it home to Brooklyn that evening, the air was thick with ash and smoke. Singed spreadsheets fell from the sky in the middle of my block — I remember one was a balance sheet from Standard Chartered Bank, which had offices in 7 World Trade Center. It had collapsed at 5:21 p.m.

The months after the attack were a frightening and tumultuous period. Everyone had a connection to someone who had died. Candles and makeshift memorials littered the streets. I think of Alysia Basmajian — not a friend of mine, but a friend of my fellow May 2000 graduates of William & Mary. She left a daughter and a husband behind that day.

Every year, the city memorializes the anniversary of the attack with two bright lights that shine vertically into the sky from the site. Now when I see them, I don't think simply of that day. I think of the long stretch of days since — and all the mistakes this country made in response to the terror attack.

I think of the Taliban flag, flying again over Afghanistan — and the oceans of blood spilt there and in Iraq. I think of torture at Bagram, Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. I think of the two decades of terror visited on my Muslim and South Asian neighbors by the NYPD and the FBI. I think of Donald Trump — the bigotry of his campaign and his presidency, and his enduring appeal to so many. I think of the image of a man, falling to his death from the burning towers, and its grim symmetry with the image of another man falling to his death from an aircraft he tried to cling to as it took off at the Kabul airport. I think of desperate people, no different than you or me.

In 2001, the stench of the smoke from the World Trade Center pit hung in the City's air for weeks after the attack. I can still remember that smell, and when I do I taste it in my mouth. Every life lost that day was a tragedy. But so was our collective response – and the hundreds of thousands of lives it has cost. From that, the air still hasn't cleared.

— Justin Hendrix; Pittsylvania County, Virginia

The Eagle

Bryan-College Station, Texas

I retired from the Pentagon on June 1, 2001, after 31 years in the Army.

My post-retirement job was as the manager of an ice-skating rink in northern Virginia. The morning of Sept. 11, I had an employee come running in to say we all needed to be in the lobby watching the television: the nation was being attacked.

Our rink family sat, prayed, talked and prayed some more that day and that month. The business owners made the decision to use the rink as a gathering place for children and their families trying to find positive activities to keep spirits up, and it worked.

Both of my sons were at Texas A&M University. The older was in his fifth year en route to an Air Force intelligence career, and the youngest was in the Corps of Cadets. Both were safe, and Aggies took care of Aggies once again.

I believe that day in September provided incentive for my sons to commit to careers serving our nation. Both have served in the Middle East.

Sept. 11 brought our nation together and, in its tragedy, patriotism came alive. It is a day to be remembered, and memorial ceremonies remind us of our losses.

Like Memorial Day, Sept. 11 is not a celebration but rather, time to be thankful for our great nation and to remember those who lost their lives.

God bless America … on Sept. 11 and every day!

— Gerry Hince; U.S. Army, retired; Bryan, Texas

News & Record

Greensboro, North Carolina

It was a beautiful morning. The sky was clear blue. The air felt like fall. We had flown to New York on Monday 9/10.

It was our regular September buying trip for a major retailer. We were eating breakfast and discussing business, when one of the servers came to our table and quietly said, we just heard on the radio that something terrible is happening. A plane has flown into the World Trade Center. We were moved down to a lower floor for our safety. We heard sirens, sirens, and more sirens.

Finally at 6 p.m. everyone thought it would be safe to go back to the Novotel.

What was outside was apocalyptic. There was a thick coating of dust, debris, and paper blowing up Broadway. We were the only people on the street, no cabs, no other people, nothing.

We locked arms moving as one up the street terrified.

Somehow, someway the next morning, the company got two buses into the city to take us home.

One week later I was back on a plane to complete my orders. Myself, the designer buyer, and two other people were the only ones on the plane. We flew into an armed state at LaGuardia. Military guards everywhere. Guns, bomb sniffing dogs, and riot gear.

This trip was even more heart breaking. People were handing out flyers of their missing loved ones. They covered fences, telephone poles, and on T-shirts ... faces everywhere.

All those lives lost on that fateful day in September.

— Susan Shope; Eden, North Carolina

The Bismarck Tribune

Bismarck, North Dakota

I was in the Pentagon on 9/11. My co-worker, Col. Dave Scales, was killed and my office was destroyed. I had just moved from Bismarck the year before after having been a candidate for ND state treasurer, state labor commissioner and state auditor in the ’90s. As far as I know, I was the only North Dakotan in the part of the Pentagon that was hit on 9/11. Lt. General Jerry Sinn of Minot, who had an office down the hall from me, was away on a trip.

That day I was sitting at my desk when I heard a “kaboom,” felt a gust of wind and everything shook. Someone yelled “We’ve been hit” and people started yelling and screaming. In shock, I got up and headed for the door. My co-workers yelled at me to come the other way. The direction I was heading was toward the fire where the plane had come in. Some of my co-workers were trying to get an emergency door open so we could get out. They couldn’t get the door open and we thought we were trapped. We finally got the door open and made our way outside the building to see billows of thick, black smoke. We then went out into the parking lot and into what was a surreal scene as we watched the Pentagon burn.

— Gary Holm; Alexandria, Virginia, formerly of Bismarck, North Dakota

Quad-City Times

Davenport, Iowa

Davenport Mayor Mike Matson deployed to Qatar and Afghanistan in early 2002 for several months to assist in advising joint special operations missions. He retired from the Army in 2003.

"(On the morning of 9/11) I was the operations sergeant major at Army Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg, N.C. ... A few days before, a few other senior folks and I went down to Fort Benning, Ga. ... because there were units going through mobilization ... (headed) to Bosnia and Kosovo. So I was there to kind of see and report on how that preparation for those units were.

"So that morning of 9/11, we're in a classroom. ... One of my friends, another sergeant major that was with me, came in and said, 'Mike! Come in here. A plane just flew into the World Trade Center.' What?! So I kind of pause, and the training paused. In that room, there wasn't a TV so we went into another bigger room, and there was a TV with a live (news) feed.

"... It showed the first tower (and) smoke coming out of it, because the (first) plane had hit. ... As we're sitting there talking about what the heck we think happened … we watch the other plane hit the next tower.

"All of us said almost at the exact time, 'We're at war with someone.' This is not an accident. Two planes are not accidentally flying into the two towers. ... Five, 10, 15, 20 minutes go (by) and people's beepers start going off. And mine and others … are like, 'Get back to (Fort) Bragg, now.'

“So everybody realized we're being attacked."

— Staff reports; Davenport, Iowa

Lincoln Journal Star

Lincoln, Nebraska

At 7 years old, my morning began like any other — rushed Pop Tarts, backpacks and shoes. Then, just before being ushered out the door, came a sense of urgency.

The TV flicked on at home and phone calls were exchanged. I couldn’t comprehend the magnitude of what was happening or that this moment would change life as I knew it.

The mood at school was somber that day, with teachers whispering and confused looks from my peers as we watched the news. For many, their family lives went on as usual. For mine, the story was different.

Before we knew it, my dad was being deployed as his Air National Guard unit was activated for duty. What followed were months of missed birthdays and holidays, tearful phone calls, and an empty feeling in our home. While our dad was away overseas, my mom was here on the homefront, looking after three young children while working a full-time job — a familiar story for many.

Although we felt angry and sad at times, we knew our dad was making a sacrifice in honor of our country and freedoms. Greeting him at the airport upon his return is one of my most cherished memories, a memory I am lucky to have.

— Makenzie Barry (Brookhouser); Lincoln, Nebraska

The Citizen

Auburn, New York

On the morning of Sept. 11, I was onboard the USS The Sullivans (DDG-68) as it was getting underway from Naval Station Mayport. During the sea and anchor detail, I sat on the Antisubmarine Warfare Combat System console located in the Combat Information Center. Normally this entailed sitting by as we made our way to sea. This day was quite different. I had access to the tactical chat with other ships in the area and it began buzzing with news. Soon after I heard the 1MC (general announcement system) in the ship call for the captain to go to CIC. It took a moment to understand that we went from a peacetime underway to combat ready in a matter of minutes as the launch keys were activated for the vertical launch system. We spent the next several days patrolling the coast ready to intercept and shoot down any unauthorized aircraft.

I will never forget the speed in which the entire ship went from a “routine” underway to combat ready.

I will also never forget watching what unfolded on the ship TV system.

— Matthew Cowen, sonar technician (surface) petty officer 1st class (ship's writer), U.S. Navy (1995-2005); Union Springs, New York

The Daily Nonpareil

Council Bluffs, Iowa

I was serving my first church, Fairfield Presbyterian Church in Fairfield, Washington.

I was driving back from taking the kids to an early morning marching band practice at the local high school. It was about 6:30 a.m. when my cell phone rang. “Paul, turn on the TV!” When I got home I turned on the TV and saw the replay of the planes hitting both of the Twin Towers.

The images were stunning, shocking, beyond anyone’s wildest expectations. Between the (news radio) descriptions and the images on TV, I experienced a sense of immediacy, as if this were happening 30 miles away, instead of 3,000 miles away. I was glued to the TV for what seemed hours.

I soon realized that there needed to be an avenue for people to express their anger, fear and patriotism. I bought the last American Flag from the local hardware store and hung it from the bell tower on the church campus. I organized a special midweek service to give people the opportunity to gather to support one another. Along with my ecumenical colleagues, I participated in a community worship service to bring people together.

As I look back, what is striking about 9-11 is that our communities came together for mutual support. Gone were the traditional rivalries — we looked past divisions in order to see commonalities and found that those divisions were artificial.

Somehow, we unlearned that lesson in the past 20 years. It is my hope that we relearn that lesson.

— Rev. Paul Masters; New Horizon Presbyterian Church, Council Bluffs, Iowa

The Free Lance-Star

Fredericksburg, Virginia

It was chaotic going north, not the regular (Interstate) 95 chaos, but different. Every radio station was talking about it. When we got to Quantico, black Suburbans fell in behind us.

We started seeing smoke plumes. It was white, so I thought: How bad can it be? I had no idea. It was unfathomable. We parked by a huge, beautiful tree and it was game on. My partner and I were detailed to the center of the Pentagon to help set up rehab for the incoming firefighters and patients. It was the first time I had ever seen a helicopter gunship with a man holding a gun flying patterns over our heads. We waited hours for patients who never came because they were all dead.

I would never look at the world the same way again.

I grew more as a medic, and a person than I thought was possible. I got awards, and plaques, and pins that I couldn’t keep because I can’t bear to look at them. My mom keeps them in case I ever want them back. I won’t.

I don’t watch the news leading up to the anniversaries, and now because of the fall of Afghanistan, I’m not sure I will ever watch the news again. I wonder if all of that was for nothing. I hate the word hero, there is nothing heroic about what I did that day.

— Kelly Ehrlich; Bowling Green, Virginia

Albany Democrat-Herald

Albany, Oregon

On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, I received a call from the 911 dispatcher that a plane had hit the North Tower of the World Trade Center and they were calling for an all-hands. We came in from Queens, New York, on our ambulance FH2 at 8:46 a.m.

While on our way through the Manhattan traffic at 9:03 a.m., a second plane hit the South Tower and we knew it was a terrorist attack. The rest of our crews commandeered a New York City bus and came in with extra equipment. Upon arrival there were people screaming and running and bloody. We went to the North Tower and began helping and caring for people as the other ambulances arrived and a staging area was being set up. People were jumping from the top of the buildings so as not to be burned up.

At 9:59 a.m., the South Tower collapsed and it looked like an atomic bomb hit it with smoke, cement, metal, bodies coming down as we ran for cover. The North tower fell at 10:28. It took what seemed like a month for all the soot and asbestos to settle on the ground before we could run back in there to help survivors.

People who were white, black, yellow were all one color — "gray." My wife Linda didn't know where I was for the next three days. I found out she was with people holding vigils in the parks. I lived the nightmare for the next three months looking for survivors so families could get closure.

— David Solomon; Commander, American Legion Post 10; Millersburg, Oregon

Corvallis Gazette-Times

Corvallis, Oregon

My husband and I lived near Washington Square in New York City. I was on my way to vote when I saw people standing looking downtown where the first Tower had just been hit by a plane. Thinking it must be a horrible accident, I continued on. By the time I was finished, I watched as another plane crashed into the second Tower. “We at war!” I thought. “But with who?”

By then ash-covered groups of workers were walking uptown — a kind shop owner had given out free running shoes. We were either glued to the news or going outside and watching the towers slowly burn. It was terrifying and unreal. No one really knew what happened or if they would strike again.

So many were killed that day. Posters sprang up with pictures of loved ones in the hope that they were wandering around dazed. Everyone wanted to help. My husband stood in line to donate blood but there was no one to receive it. The hospital later discarded the blood.

We were very kind to each other. Life was fragile. Anyone could have lost someone.

— Deborah Wolf; Corvallis, Oregon

Florence Morning News

Florence, South Carolina

Walking out of a patient’s room in Timmonsville, South Carolina, I was summoned to the phone. My husband said, “Have you seen the news? America is under attack?”

Quickly the people in the clinic turned on the TV in the waiting room to see the tower’s falling. Shortly, the Pentagon underwent another catastrophic attack.

Standing there in disbelief were the medical staff and the patients, and all were silent. Tears were rolling down each face as the impact of what had just happened struck us all. The physical ailments and demands of the day took a backseat as we wondered when and where the next attack would happen.

As most people, I took freedom and peace in our land for granted. That night I hugged my family tighter as our homes filled with the news and the events of the day. Forever etched in our minds were the towers coming down, the people running away and toward the events. The president being given the news as he read to school-aged children.

Life in America changed that day. A new sense of what having freedom meant and how quickly it could be removed. The feeling of “One Nation under God!” became our anthem again. It no longer mattered your political affiliation, color, gender or nationality. We were all Americans.

In remembering what happened that day, America is once again under attack. Not by a terrorist flying a plane but by a deadly virus. We need to remember that to truly be free we must come together. Together we make America stronger. Together we stand united. Together we can overcome any adversary. Together we are a free America.

— Deborah L. Hopla; Francis Marion University associate professor, Florence, S.C.

Globe Gazette

Mason City, Iowa

The morning of 9/11, I was getting satellite TV hooked up. I had to run to Radio Shack to get a part for them to complete the connection. En route, I heard on the radio of the first plane hitting one of the towers. I rushed home and gave the techs the part and told them to get it up and running right away.

That done, we saw the second jet hit the other tower. I cursed and immediately started going over the plans I had trained for over the last 15-years-plus for going to war. I started packing my gear.

About 11:30 a.m., I got my first warning order to go to war, the Pentagon and Shanksville strikes occurred. I notified my employer, who told me it was just a terrorist strike; I replied that somebody just declared war on us and that they would have federal orders by the end of the day, and they did.

I told my wife what she needed to know in my absence. I had to report to my unit the morning of the 12th, be processed for war, not knowing where we were going or for how long or even if I would come back.

I called my two children, told them I would be going to war, to donate blood, and that I loved them. My wife was granted permission to say goodbye at the end of the day on the 12th as my people would be shipping out the morning of the 13th. I returned two years later.

— SSG Steven Howell Ret. 4249th MP; Mason City, Iowa

The Roanoke Times

Roanoke, Virginia

My office was on the 104th floor of the South Tower. On 9/11 I had a doctor's appointment in New Jersey and saw the North Tower get hit on TV. I called my coworkers who said they thought a small plane had crashed into the building. When I got to the doctor's office a man rushed in and said that the South Tower had been hit. Knowing my coworkers had not left the building I literally collapsed on the floor.

I came home and learned that 17 people had escaped the building. Cell service was spotty but I was able to contact some of them who had taken refuge in a church. Those who lived in New Jersey walked uptown to my fiance's apartment and he drove them out to my house where I had called their families to come and meet them. It was a very bittersweet moment.

Days later as those of us had survived (most were away on business trips or had not arrived at the office as of yet) went about rebuilding our firm. On the wall was a sign-up sheet for attendance at memorial services (not funerals).

Most of those we lost were young and thus there were 123 children (most under 5) who had lost a parent. Our firm started a foundation and many clients and friends donated generously. That foundation has put every one of those children through college.

As I write these words I am crying. After 20 years, the sadness remains.

— Judith Scott; Botetourt County, Virginia


Tulsa World

Tulsa, Oklahoma

On 9/11, I was in my office on the 47th floor of the Citicorp building, which faced down Lexington Avenue in NYC, holding a meeting. The view of the World Trade Center was clear when the first plane hit. As we looked out the window, I said, “New York firefighters are the best in the world and will have that out quickly.”

Ten minutes later the other tower exploded in a massive fireball from the second plane. We realized it was an attack and decided to evacuate our building, a noticeable target. As I walked to get my car, the first building fell. Later I was relieved to see two Air Force jets heading to the city. The air in the city stayed poor for many days, and my team and I returned to work the next day so that terrorists would not deter us from doing our jobs as financial advisers and wealth managers. We called all our clients. Unbelievable terrible experience for all America.

— Jim Chin; Jenks, Oklahoma


Twin Falls, Idaho

It’s hard to believe it’s been 20 years, as I vividly remember the events of that day. I was there, right across the river from where it happened! My boss came in and told us that his dad had just seen a broadcast of a plane hitting the World Trade Center. My first thought was about the pilot in the small plane. Then we learned it was a huge plane carrying lots of people, and I was concerned for their families. Then my boss came in and said, “Carla, we are under attack.”

When the Trade Centers went down we lost our telephone service. It was eerily quiet except for the wailing of the sirens. Usually in New Jersey, there is always droning of planes overhead. I was the bookkeeper, and I still had a computer to work on, so I continued working, trying to blot out the evil that was going on. Then my phone rang! It was my daughter calling from Idaho to check on me. As soon as I heard her voice, I broke down crying. Only God could have put that call through, and I am eternally grateful. We closed so the employees could be home with their families, not knowing what the rest of the day would bring. For the next two weeks, every time I heard a siren, I was terrified it was starting again. To watch the drama unfold as the job of rescue and recovery went on, I could only pray for the families whose lives were torn apart.

— Carla Graham; Twin Falls, Idaho

The Billings Gazette

Billings, Montana

How has 9/11 changed me? My mom and I travelled by plane out of state for the funeral of her beloved young godson, only nine months after 9/11. I whisked through airport security in only a few moments. But mother, who was confined to a wheelchair due to her multiple sclerosis, was held aside for an hour-and-a-half for thorough inspection. They rolled up both of her pant legs, exposing her catheter tube which led to her urine bag. They took off her coat, they rolled up her sleeves, and they inspected every nook and cranny of her electric wheelchair.

I was appalled. I was angry. My mother was the sweetest person who would never hurt anyone. Yet, in my mind they were treating her like a criminal. When the hour-and-a-half was over, I turned to my mother and said something like, “How dare they spend 1½ hours on you, when you are the furthest thing from a criminal.” She just sweetly smiled and said, “You know, someone could have planted something on my chair. I don’t mind.”

What have I learned from 9/11? I’ve learned more patience and forbearance from my precious mother.

— Lynette Tedlund; Billings, Montana

The World-Herald

Omaha, Nebraska

I was teaching fifth-grade science at the King Science Magnet Center. My open period had just begun and I walked across the hall to the media center where my team would have our weekly meeting. As I walked in I saw many teachers standing in silence looking at our big screen. I looked and saw the first tower shortly after it had been hit. Black smoke billowing. All of us in shock and disbelief. Our principal asked us to not turn on our TVs but some did so throughout the day as each new group of students came to class, some had heard about it and some hadn’t. It was so hard to discuss it with 10-year-olds but I did it. Especially difficult as I did not know details and didn’t want to speculate. They already had lots of theories.

I got through the day. Walking to my car a teacher pointed out no vapor trails in the gorgeous September sky as all flights had been halted.

I had stood on top of the first tower that was hit a few months before while on my 60th birthday trip with my daughters.

We must never forget. I won’t.

— Laurie Moriarty; Omaha, Nebraska

The Missoulian

Missoula, Montana

On Sept. 11, my husband and I were driving to work. We were delivering our daughters to school and daycare before starting our day as Sentinel High School teachers. Our oldest was 7, and our youngest was 3 and newly adopted from China. We were listening to Craig and Al on Z100 when they broke the news. We were shocked, incredulous, and devastated.

My Dad's birthday is Sept. 11. I am sorry he has to share his birthday with this horrible day. I beg people to resist being divisive and angry because that is why we endured 9/11. Let's work together for the common good. We have many problems to solve, and we will only overcome these problems if we bring out the best in each other.

— Karen Umbaugh; Missoula, Montana

The Buffalo News

Buffalo, New York

What I remember most about Sept. 11 is the sound of silence afterward. I lived in a busy flight pattern area and the sound of planes flying overhead was a part of our everyday lives. The absence of that sound after flights were all grounded seemed deafening in our sleepy little hamlet called Lake in the Hills, located outside Chicago, which has one of the busiest airports in the country. In addition, when flights resumed and we were able to travel by air once again, I remember the uneasiness of flying, the feelings of fear and suspicion of my fellow passengers, and the great relief of landing without incident, all feelings never felt before in my life, yet still lingering today. For me, Sept. 11 signifies the death of innocence and life as we all knew it.

— Joanne Padley; Tonawanda, New York

Waco Tribune-Herald

Waco, Texas

Like the song says, I was that teacher in a classroom full of students. I was only a student teacher and was assigned to La Vega High School. My mentor teacher, Coach George Kilgo, was beginning our U.S. History class when the English teacher ran in to our room and said one of the towers from the World Trade Center had been hit. A little bit later, she came back in and said the other tower had been hit and Coach Kilgo said, "We are under siege."

After that, we spent the day listening to the radio with the students, watching the actual falling of the towers on our school TV and answering the students' questions as well as we could. I remember one student asking what the World Trade Center really was. Other students thought we would be hit as several places around the United States had been hit. We calmly had to explain that Waco, Texas was probably not high on a terrorists’ hit list but that Fort Hood was a definite possibility.

La Vega High School was particularly interested in all of this as the son of the school librarian was employed as a chef at the World Trade Center and he couldn't be reached. About 2:30, the principal of the school came on the loudspeaker and said that the son had called his mom and assured her he was fine as he happened to be off work that day. The whole school cheered. Later that semester, as we were studying yellow journalism, recruitment and propaganda, students began talking about 9/11 again since it was foremost in their minds. I had them make patriotism recruitment posters. This was some of the best work student work I have ever seen. One student of a particularly creative poster, noted on the back of his creation that he was thankful for the assignment as it helped him deal with his feelings about the whole situation. I think that was the general feeling of all the classes.

Now, I am teaching a generation of students who weren't even born yet. I try to remind myself of that around 9/11. I started to devote a day to video clips and discussion of the siege. Last year, after a particularly sad clip of final calls from victims to families, one of my students said out loud, "Oh wow! Now I get it." I hope he always does "get it".

— Teresa M. Nors; West, Texas


Be the first to know

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Related to this story

Recommended for you by

Stories and visuals you might like, based on your recent visits.

Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device.


News Alerts

Badger Sports

Breaking News