Lives affected forever by 9/11 attacks
Area residents’ memories of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 remain vivid after 10 years. They range from personal tales about what happened to them that tragic day to their thoughts about what it has meant for America.
It was a beautiful Tuesday morning. I was out in the garden, starting to think about pulling up the spent plants. I heard Matt come home from his dentist appointment. He shouted, “The world is coming to an end!”
I thought he was kidding about the dentist finding a cavity. Instead, I came inside to find him staring at the TV.
K. C. Bohrer
On 9/11, I was captain of the Berkeley County Sheriff’s Department. I was attending training for Terrorism and Weapons of Mass Destruction at the National Guard base.
After a break, we came back to class to see television monitors displaying the carnage of the twin towers. We had just been discussing Osama Bin Laden, terrorist cells and their plans against this country. Many of the law enforcement officers thought the television display was a training model being used by the instructors. It was not!
One FBI instructor was highly trained in the subject matter. The other was a New York City Fire Department captain who had worked the 1993 bombings at the World Trade Center.
As we watched in disbelief, cell phones and pagers began to go off. It was all too real. Officials were summoned to contact their command centers. Class was dismissed — time for all of us to get to work protecting our country.
Over the long days and weeks ahead, things took place in law enforcement I had never seen. High level meetings, briefings, intelligence sharing and other unprecedented efforts were happening.
Berkeley County has a large federal presence. Many agencies had to be protected. Law enforcement became partners with the federal government.
A few days later, I was called to the 167th Air National Guard base by Security Police there. All aircraft had been grounded after the attack in New York. This day, a small civilian craft was flying against the restrictions and failing to yield. F-16’s were scrambled.
The plane was forced down in Martinsburg and the pilot and passenger arrested. They were not terrorists, just people who decided to ignore the restriction and fly home.
I look back on the class manual from that morning often. The front of the thick book depicts the twin towers through the view of a scoped rifle sight. Ironic book cover, but not really...
Where was I on 9/11?
My husband and I were coming back from Texas when we got the news at a rest stop.
I was at home when my daughter came in and said “Mom, what does a plane crashing into the World Trade Center have to do with the banks being closed”?
I said, “I don’t know.” We turned on our TV and realized a second plane had crashed into the Trade Center and that this was no accident.
I feel great sadness for those families that lost a loved one. You never forget that moment. It is always with you. But you will always have the good memories in life.
I feel we must always be alert to our surroundings, because our enemies are out there, always trying to bring us down.
It is important in our world today that our defense programs be “the best they can be” to protect our national security and the American people.
It does not seem possible that 10 years have passed. As Americans, we promised to never forget 9/11. For anyone who was close or involved in New York or D.C., it will not be possible to forget.
I was standing in front of a math class in Annapolis when lots of noise began coming from classes with computers and TVs running. We were called to the gym for a school announcement about the planes hitting the towers.
We immediately had emotional reactions from students whose parents were pilots with the airline as shock became personal fear. Before the announcement was completed, the Pentagon had been hit and many students had parents working in the building.
We began to hear all the jets from surrounding military bases and multiple emergency sirens. To add to the confusion, cell phones were not working.
It seemed there was so much information and no information at the same time. We spent hours trying to connect students to parents without success and were unwilling to send them back to empty homes.
Parents were walking miles out of D.C. with the mass transit systems shut down in an attempt to find a way home. Roads were filled with drivers at a standstill. Hours later, everyone finally got to their destinations.
I will never forget the silence of the next days, waiting to find out who was alive and who was dead. It was the silence that helped to solidify to me the thoughts that our lives were going to be changed forever.
Safety, security, patriotism, sacrifice, terrorism and so much more would be defined and lived out differently because of one day, 9/11.
I was driving home out Rt. 13 that terrible morning and had just gone by Green Gate Road when the news came on my radio. At first, I thought it just to be an accident. I hurried home to turn on the TV news and about that time, the second aircraft slammed into the towers.
My old heart just broke thinking of all the innocent lives lost forever, and knowing that our lives as Americans would never be the same again.
As an Air Force veteran, I was never so proud of how our whole country pulled together in the aftermath to help each other. I just pray to God that we never let our guard down again.
My wife Janet and I were in Nova Scotia traveling with Berkeley Springs friends, Kitty and Gale Connor. We were entering the fortress at Lewisburg when conversation with bystanders made it obvious that we were from the States and hadn’t heard about the planes that had crashed into the twin towers.
We tried to call our two sons, daughter-in-law and grandson in Manhattan, but couldn’t get through.
All planes out of Halifax to the States were cancelled, so we headed our rent-a-car toward home. We crossed the border without being detained. The Canadians never hesitated, never looked over our luggage.
Two days later, near Baltimore, we received a call from one of our sons who said all the family was safe despite a couple of close calls.
Once back, we called our daughter-in-law who headed a wound center in Manhattan. We worried about how busy she must have been with people who had injuries.
“Not so,” she told us. “They were all dead or running away from the towers.”
Robert A. Lawhorne
In September 2001, I lived in Gaithersburg, Md. and was a firefighter for Montgomery County.
On the morning of the 11th, I switched on the TV to find coverage of the first plane hitting one of the towers. Like others, I watched stoically, with an array of emotions — horror, sadness, compassion.
I watched the second plane hit the second tower and knew this was a terrorist attack against the U.S. I immediately went to pick up my children from school and stopped at my wife’s office to let her know about the situation.
I called the firehouse to see if my shift was being called in, but we were not. However, our Collapse Rescue Team was called up to respond to the Pentagon.
I felt anger, rage, powerlessness, fear and uncertainty. I knew that a countless number of firefighters, police officers and innocent people were already dead and many more deaths would follow.
As the days, weeks, months and years passed, I searched for ways to help support the survivors and honor the victims.
This May, I decided to get a tattoo (my first) as a tangible, permanent memorial to honor all who were affected that fateful day. The minor pain I felt getting the tattoo was nothing, compared to what those who were killed and injured had to endure.
It is interesting to note that the number of people evacuated and rescued that day, stands as the greatest in recorded history. I pray daily for justice and peace.
I was watching “Good Morning, America” as I usually do, when Diane Sawyer said there was a plane flying low at the first tower. The cameras showed the plane and I said, “Oh, my, it’s going to hit the tower.”
Then, another plane flew behind the second tower and there was an explosion and the second tower was on fire.
From then on, we watched everything. It was the worst thing since I saw J.F.K. get shot. It feels as if it all happened last week.
J. Philip Kesecker
The Keseckers and Browns set sail on September 4, 2001 from Istanbul, Turkey on the Celebrity Cruise Ship Millennium. We docked at Athens, Greece on Tuesday, September 11.
Many passengers left the ship for land tours, but we opted to enjoy a quiet day onboard. I spent the morning reading and watching TV in our cabin.
All news coverage concentrated on the destruction of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and the attack on the plane in Pennsylvania. When my wife returned, she thought it must be some horrible mistake. Sadly, it was true!
All ship activities were cancelled and passengers were in a state of shock and fearful when any plane came near the ship. This air of disbelief was prevalent as our ship continued on to Italy, France and Spain.
Security was tightened at the airport in Barcelona and it was uncertain if and where we would land in the U.S.A. Finally, we were permitted to land at JFK Airport in New York.
Our 12-night cruise came to an end on September 16, and 9/11/2001 was etched in our minds forever.
That morning, I had a doctor’s appointment in Hagerstown. For some reason, I really did not want to leave home. I almost cancelled the appointment.
Driving, I felt uneasy, angry for no reason, out of sorts, on edge — unusual for me. Strangely, I couldn’t stop talking about war.
On the way to the car after my appointment, a man yelled, “A plane just hit the World Trade Center!”
In disbelief and horror, my husband Sandy and I listened as the radio announcer’s panicked voice confirmed the worst: “Folks, a plane hit the World Trade Center Towers!”
Then he screamed, “Oh God. Oh noooo! A second plane just hit the Towers. That’s no accident. We’re under attack!”
As we nervously drove back to Berkeley Springs, the radio newscasters tried to sort out what was happening. Then, there was another plane crash, and then another.
The center of our government’s defense had suffered a direct hit.
Grim and silent, we looked suspiciously at other drivers. Everyone was now a potential enemy.
We couldn’t wait to get back home to our quiet refuge in Morgan County, but we knew our world had changed.
Bernice Stotler and I were walking along a sidewalk in Ocean City when a lady came out on a porch and asked us if we’d heard what happened. We hadn’t, but we had seen several people standing along the boardwalk with sad faces talking on their cell phones.
The lady told us planes hit the twin towers in New York and the Pentagon and one went down in Pennsylvania. Naturally, we were scared to death, afraid to go back home over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.
We returned to our apartment, packed up and started home by way of Philadelphia. The freeway toward New York was blocked to traffic. We tried to call home, but the call wouldn’t go through because so many people were trying to reach relatives.
After a long drive, we arrived safely home wondering what would happen next. We haven’t been back to the beach since.
I was in my third year at West Virginia University, living in the South Park area of Morgantown.
With my housemates Billy McCann, Ben Godman and Aaron Pingley and two friends, I was walking to a bus stop.
When we got on the bus, the driver asked if we’d heard what had happened in New York. He proceeded to tell us and the rest of the way downtown, we listened to the busses radio.
By the time we got to the Mountain Lair on campus, the Pentagon had been hit.
In the prior years at WVU, I’d only seen students crowded around a TV in the Lair for March Madness. That Tuesday, wherever there was a TV, there were people gathered around.
A lot of out-of-state students were more worried about people in New York since they were from New Jersey and had parents, family and friends who worked at the World Trade Center.
After my economics class, a friend told me about the plane going down in Shanksville. At the time it wasn’t known if it had been shot down or crashed.
The next day when I got out of bed, I hoped that the day before was just a dream. Sadly, it wasn’t.
It was my 60th birthday on September 10, 2001, so my husband Darrell and I decided to do something special. We booked a room in the Bavarian Inn in Shepherdstown.
On Tuesday, September 11, we planned to visit Antietam Battlefield across the river in Maryland. We awoke to a beautiful early fall day – blue skies, cool breezes and bright sunshine.
After breakfast, we decided to walk around Shepherdstown to check out some of the shops we’d missed the day before. In one shop, we encountered a very ancient lady who was babbling about planes in the sky being out of control. We couldn’t make any sense of what she was saying, so we quickly left.
We were surprised to find most of the shops closed at 10 a.m. Finally, we found a gift shop that was open. Three people were standing behind the counter staring at a TV set. When we approached, they looked at us as if we had three heads!
When I asked how much an item cost, they simply continued to stare at us. I was beginning to wonder if I did have three heads. Finally a man said, “Didn’t you hear what happened in New York City?”
We never made it to Antietam. We spent the day in our gorgeous room watching the horrible pictures on TV. Our celebration of my birthday would never again be the same.
U.S. Navy Captain (retired)
I was enjoying the lovely autumn morning that was 9/11, seated outside at a coffeehouse about four blocks from the Pentagon, savoring a cup of brew, when I was startled by a loud noise, followed by a stream of fire trucks and ambulances headed in the direction of the “hit.”
Glancing to my right, I could see billowing black smoke rising from the general direction of the building. Assuming the worst, I ran to my car and drove a back route to my home in D.C.
Next day I headed to my weekend house at Coolfont, feeling somewhat safer but obviously distressed by this horrific event, something I will never forget.
I recall September 11, 2001 so vividly. I was working at War Memorial Hospital in Room 328, discussing nutritional therapy with a patient.
All of a sudden a news report came on the television saying the World Trade Center had been hit by a plane. I was stunned and in total disbelief. All I could do was watch in horror and say prayers for the victims and their families.
When the second plane hit, I knew we were under attack. I was shocked and frightened as I resisted the urge to go get my children from school.
I will never forget the beautiful blue skies of that day when our lives changed forever.
Tina Ann Byers
It was a crystal blue morning with just the first hint of Fall chill. I was pleased that my Monday meeting in lower Manhattan had been moved to Tuesday 9/11 so I could enjoy a drive in the beautiful weather.
Due to traffic, I was running late on the New Jersey Turnpike northbound for the Holland Tunnel. Suddenly, the sluggish traffic came to a complete halt. The reason was not immediately evident because I didn’t have a radio in my Wrangler and, from that portion of the Turnpike, I couldn’t see lower Manhattan.
After ten minutes, cars started turning around to drive southbound. I gave up on my meeting and headed back to my office in Cherry Hill.
I arrived at the office just before the second plane hit. From the top floor of my building, my co-workers and I watched the billowing, black, smoke column from the World Trade Center rise to impossible heights and foul the flawless sky. The dense smoke column would become an ever present feature of that sky until Christmas.
My office internet was not terribly fast in 2001, but I attempted to find out if the rumors of the World Trade Center falling were true. Moreover, which direction did they fall?
During my years living in Manhattan, I had worked in both towers and in every building nearby. I had hundreds of classmates, former co-workers, professional colleagues and friends who would be affected.
We had no television in my office and every major U.S. news website was “unavailable.” I was finally able to access the BBC, where I saw the first photos of the devastation.
I frantically went through my address book from A to Z, telephoning everyone that I knew downtown. Few of the calls made it through.
Because most of my friends worked on high floors of the towers, I scoured every photo of falling people, looking for clothing I recognized or perhaps a familiar face.
Outside my window, passenger jets screamed at high speed through the sky to land at Philadelphia International Airport across the river from my office. Their thunderous roars rattled the large pane windows for over an hour.
A perfect 360 degree “wagon wheel” was sketched in pure white against the blue sky as each jet left an arrow-straight contrail path which converged at the airport. Later, all the contrails disappeared, and there wouldn’t be another for two weeks.
Ultimately, my friends and I located each other through spontaneously posted “sign up lists” hosted by Columbia University. I’ll never forget the header on the list: “Sign here if you’re alive.”
Thirteen of my friends and colleagues did not survive. Their remains were never found nor identified. As time begins to heal our pain and fade the memories of that horrific day, never forget to pray for the surviving family members of those who died on September 11, 2001, because they will always remember.