Where were you? Readers share their stories –
By Patricia Beech –
Where were you?
Were you at work? Were you in school? Were you at the grocery or visiting a friend?
Chances are you remember with great clarity exactly where you were on that cloudless September morning fifteen years ago when the unthinkable happened.
America was attacked.
In a deliberate act of war conducted with chilling precision, terrorists turned four passenger airliners into deadly bombs and delivered death to more than innocent 3,000 Americans.
The brazen and devastating attack left us all stunned and shaken, struggling to grasp the full scope of the catastrophe. Through that long day we watched, shattered and paralyzed, as the world we knew gave way to unspeakable, unimaginable violence and pain.
We all remember that September morning. It is burned indelibly into the memories of all Americans.
“I was in the eighth grade, sitting in History class, staring at the TV in disbelief and with an overwhelming sense that life as we knew it was about to change forever,” Lindsay Cline, Public Safety Communications Manager at UC Health remembers. “I watched all those firefighters, EMTs, and police officers rushing in while everyone else was running out. From that moment I knew I wanted to be in public service. I’m now celebrating my tenth year in EMS.”
“I grew up in Adams County, but I lived in Newport on 9/11. I remember seeing the TV and thinking it was a movie. When I realized it wasn’t I grew very scared,” Patty Ryan-Fox, a Team Health employee in Knoxville TN recalled. “The first thing I thought of was what if they crashed a plane into the Oak Ridge nuclear plant. I remember calling my sister , who still lives in Adams county. We were both scared. It was the first time it crossed my mind that my family was strung out between Ohio and Tennessee. I thought I may never see them again.”
Carisa Kremin, on a business trip for the Honda Corporation when the towers were hit, remembers: “I was flying from London to Turin, Italy. When we landed airport security met us on the tarmac and asked if there were any Americans on board. We said we were and they hurried us off the plane and into the airport where Italian soldiers told us what was happening in the U.S. We were taken to an American hotel in Rome.”
“That night CNN was our only connection to home,” Kremin continued. “The news anchors were Italian, so we couldn’t understand them, but we began to piece the story together. We watched in horror as they replayed the attacks. We saw the first plane hit and the people on the street looking up in disbelief and confusion. We saw the second plane hit and we knew it was no accident. We watched the smoke billowing from the scars in the Twin Towers and the Pentagon. Then the towers started to fall and we saw the people closest to Ground Zero running, terrified, their faces covered in white dust.”
“We tried to call home, but couldn’t get through. There were no cell phones and all of the land lines into the U.S. were tied up. There were no flights. All air traffic in and out of the U.S. was grounded.”
“Even though the Italian people were kind, and sad for us, it was scary to be outside the country so far from home.”
“We watched as the number of casualties kept rising and family members carrying photos searched for their loved ones,” Kremin added. “We saw New Yorkers praying and building impromptu memorials of candles and flowers around the walls of photographs. While we were in Rome we participated in a candlelight vigil for the victims, walking with thousands of other people through the city toward the ancient Roman Colosseum. We were in Italy four days before we finally got a flight back to London where we spent two days waiting for a flight out of Heathrow. We waited with hundreds of other Americans at the airport. Some of them were returning to friends and loved ones who had survived, others were relatives of the dead. All of us were stranded by the same tragedy. All of us wanted to go home.”
“I’ll never forget our pilot’s words as we neared home: ‘We have just entered U.S. air space. It’s good to be home ladies and gentlemen, and may God bless the United States of America’. I will never forget that.”
Mandy Knechtly, whose fiance, Danny, was a U. S. Marine waiting to be deployed, remembers: “As I watched the tragedy unfold on TV that day, my heart ached for the loss our country was enduring, and I feared what it meant for Danny and me. We knew he would be called up, it was just a matter of time. That call came on the 7th of March. We married two days later, and on the 11th he was gone. Two years later I watched as President Bush declared war on Iraq and US troops began the march toward Baghdad. At that time Danny was still in Kuwait. I hated watching the news, but at the same time I couldn’t look away or stop worrying and wondering where he was, if he were safe, and when he would call.”
“September 11 meant a lot of different things for different people, Knechtly continued. “ Some still suffer the loss of loved ones from that day, and some are still suffering loss as we fight an endless war on terrorism all over the world. Personally, I was able to forge bonds with other military wives and families that I will cherish the rest of my life. My husband is the man and father he is today because of the impact the Marine Corps and his brothers made in his life. I am so thankful he came home.”
Matt Young, currently the principal at North Adams High School, had another personal connection to the attacks on the Pentagon in the nation’s capital.
“I was teaching 6th grade at the time and terrified,” said Young. “Obviously because our country was just attacked and secondly because my brother Mark worked in the Pentagon at the time. We couldn’t make contact with him until the evening. Phone lines were a mess.”
This Sunday, September 11 as we remember our own stories, we remember too the men and women and children who died on that fateful day in the Twin Towers, in the Pentagon, on American Flights 77 and 11, and United Flights 175 and 93 which crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania after passengers attempted to wrest control of the plane from the hijackers. We also remember and honor the sacrifice of firefighters, policemen, and EMT personnel on that day, as well as the thousands of brave military men and women who have fought and died in the war on terror that ensued after the 9/11 attack.