This week, we’ll see and read a lot about 9/11. No one was left untouched when the terrorists attacked the United States that day.
The emotions still ring sharply a decade later, but talking about them helps us to heal. Thank you to our readers who shared such personal moments with the paper. I hope their words help us all to remember, to heal and to strengthen our unity and resolve as a nation.
Sandra Shaw, Oro Valley
It began as a beautiful, bright autumn day in Washington, D.C. My sister had dropped me at my office on K Street and went on to her office in Arlington across the river. Early, as usual, I stopped in the kitchen to get a cup of tea. There was a slight commotion next door in the art department – an announcement over the radio that a plane had crashed into one of the towers in NYC. I went into my boss’s office to tell him, and recalled a “similar” accident in the late ‘40s when a small plane had hit the Empire State Building. He turned on his TV to follow the news.
A few minutes later the story broke of a second plane hitting the tower, so this was no accident; things became very tense. There was much speculation on what was happening. My niece called me from Tampa, Fla., saying there were rumors about another plane having been highjacked, and it was heading east. I didn’t know it at the time, but she was calling to say goodbye to me, in case something occurred in D.C.
Then the awful word came that the Pentagon had been struck. My boss and I took the stairs to the roof garden on our building where we had a clear view of the Pentagon in flames. We stood for a while, watching it burn and went back downstairs. I was very concerned because I had a friend, a single mother, who was working in the Pentagon.
It was a bit chaotic. Rumors were flying. There were more planes heading for D.C. The State Department (next door to the White House) had been hit. A plane was heading for the Capitol building.
The government announced that it was sending workers home; our head office in Chicago (based in the Sears Tower) decided to close our offices nationwide. There was a steady sound of sirens of all sorts and traffic jams in the streets as people started leaving their offices to try to get home. My boss told me to stay with him, to let the traffic die down and he would drive me home. We stayed in the almost disserted building for another couple of hours until word came that the city was being shut down and we would have to leave.
The traffic had almost cleared up, but we did get run off the parkway by a convoy of government vehicles coming in the wrong direction. Without too much elapsed time, I got home in northwest D.C. My sister had quite a struggle to get there. The bridges from Virginia were closed to the public and she had to find a distant bridge to get back through Maryland to the D.C. side of the river. She didn’t arrive until about an hour after I did.
It was never officially declared, but for the next few days, D.C. was virtually under military rule. There were humvees parked on street corners where the hot dog trucks usually were, and soldiers were controlling the traffic. It was a somber place.
Things did ease up in the coming weeks, but there was still a lot of tension in the air. I recall an incident when a bus backfired and men wearing three-piece business suits hit the ground as if they were in combat.
We had already planned a vacation trip to Arizona in the middle of October but we had to fly out of Dulles Airport as D.C. National (Reagan) was still closed. It was during this trip that I once again fell in love with the Southwest and decided to relocate here when I retired two years later. I did exactly that. I love it here. I have never looked back except today, as the anniversary draws near.
Karen Schickedanz, SaddleBrooke
On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, my husband, Norm, and I were just backing out of our driveway in suburban Chicago, on our way to a new life in SaddleBrooke, Ariz. Our next-door neighbor, to whom we already had said goodbye, came running across the yard, crying. “Did you hear? A plane has crashed into the World Trade Center in New York,” she said. We all thought it was a tragic accident. But shortly thereafter, on the car radio, Norm and I heard about the second plane, and like millions of other people, realized this was no accident.
Then we heard about the plane flying into the Pentagon, and my thoughts veered to my daughter and son-in-law, who live and work in Washington, D.C., not far from the White House and the Capitol building. Could they be in danger too? Sears Tower loomed in our rearview window as we left the Chicago area. My husband used to work in an office there, and I couldn’t help thinking maybe it would be next.
But stuck in the car, we couldn’t find out anything except what was on the radio, and reception wasn’t the best in downstate rural Illinois and Missouri. The cell phone lines were jammed, so we couldn’t reach either our daughter in D.C. or our son in Chicago. It wasn’t until we reached our overnight stop that we finally saw the awful footage on TV and were able to talk to our son on the motel room phone. He said our daughter had managed to email him via computer, telling him she and her husband were OK.
Looking back, I think the most difficult thing for us that day was this eerie feeling that we were in-between homes, that we didn’t have a safe place that we knew well, where we could be with family and friends. We couldn’t even share our grief with strangers, because we were on the road. It wasn’t quite the way I had envisioned starting our new life, but I will never forget that moving day. And I use the word “moving” intentionally, with both meanings.
Harvey Hartzler, Marana
My response on 9/11 when I saw the smoke rise from the first tower and then the crumbling of the second tower after the hit of the second plane was to go to my office and close the door. I was living in Florida at the time.
Realizing there were persons who hated the United States enough to take the lives of hundreds of innocent persons along with themselves, I buried my face in my hands and cried for the families of the persons killed that day and for the thousands who I feared would die as our government would try to punish the perpetrators.
I recognize the efforts of our government to improve the lives of persons worldwide with farming and sanitation projects through the Peace Corp and other agencies, but am sad with the loss of lives by our continued military action.
To do my part to improve the lives of persons nearby, after retirement I began volunteering several days a week at a home-repair agency. The work provides people who are dependent on wheelchairs and walkers with safe entry to the homes. We also repair roofs, plumbing and electric systems.