Remembering a day that we’ll never forget
Saturday marks 20 years since the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. We invited Craig residents to share their memories of that tragic day
Twenty years ago Saturday, hijacked commercial jet planes were flown into both towers of the World Trade Center in New York City and into the side of the Pentagon in Washington D.C. A fourth hijacked plane was downed in a Pennsylvania field thanks to the heroic actions of its passengers.
Reverberating from that moment in time was and is the kind of shock that, despite decades of distance and multiple horrifying events therein with arguably comparable or even larger cumulative impacts, is unlikely to ever fade from our consciousness.
Culturally, it’s an epochal line of demarcation. September 11, 2001, is a “before and after” sort of moment. So much of how we view recent history is broken up into pre-9/11 and post-9/11.
Despite the urging from our political leaders in the weeks and months after the moment itself, it’s hard to consider any moment in the post-9/11 world as a complete “return to normalcy.”
While relatively few of us were impacted directly by the events of that day, practically all of us were or have since been impacted indirectly. So, in an effort to acknowledge this communal scar on our collective psyches, the Craig Press asked readers to send us their memories of that day. Following is a selection of what Craig Press readers recall.
Participate in The Longevity Project
The Longevity Project is an annual campaign to help educate readers about what it takes to live a long, fulfilling life in our valley. This year Kevin shares his story of hope and celebration of life with his presentation Cracked, Not Broken as we explore the critical and relevant topic of mental health.
A rough shove into adulthood
September 11, 2001. I had been 16 for less than a month and I was a sophomore in high school.
I was failing. There wasn’t much in my head back then beyond boys and friends and fun, and my grades reflected that. Most of my teachers let me be, a couple of them tried to get me engaged in my school work but I didn’t want to hear it.
Mrs. Duncan was different. She spoke to me like an adult when I didn’t deserve it and she saw potential where I didn’t believe there was any.
She taught my first class of the day.
When I sat down at my desk that September morning, I had no idea the world had changed, no inkling that my day would be anything other than tedious classes to slog through before I could see my friends.
We didn’t watch TV in the mornings at my house. I woke up, got dressed, and walked to school. I had no hint that anything was off.
Until Mrs. Duncan turned on the classroom television.
I can’t recall her words, if she even had any to explain the inexplicable to a room full of teenagers.
I do remember how quiet the rest of the day was, how serious all the faces were. I remember the whispers,
“How could this happen?”
“What does this mean for us?”
“We’ll have to go to war.”
Another subject I knew nothing about. A piece of history that seemed impossible to repeat itself.
Back at home that evening, there were no answers waiting for me. No assurances.
It was quiet there, too.
I remember going out for a walk with my best friend, trying to escape the silence, trying to make sense of the awful thing that neither of us were equipped to grasp then.
We watched cars line up at gas stations, not understanding the things the adults did — we could be in for a fuel shortage, or worse.
Boys I spoke to that day talked of joining the military. Friends who just days before hadn’t a clue what to do with their lives suddenly faced a future they weren’t ready for, a fight nobody had seen coming.
September 11th gave me and so many others a rough shove into adulthood, forced us out of our safe little bubbles, and left a scar across the nation.
When I went to bed that night, I remember feeling glad that it had been Mrs. Duncan who’d told me. I was ashamed to realize how fortunate I was to have all my family safe that night when so many others had that luxury ripped away from them. I remember thinking how surreal the day had been and that maybe it was a nightmare that would be forgotten with the dawn of the next day.
It wasn’t forgotten, and it never should be.
It shaped us
I remember sitting in my classroom at school. I was in third grade, and we had just finished saying the pledge of allegiance when our morning announcements came on.
My teacher looked up at the TV and began to cry, another teacher came in and told her to turn the TV off. I remember all of us children sitting there in panic as two teachers held each other and cried.
My mother showed up at school and took me home, she cried on the way home and I didn’t understand why. I remember her trying to explain to me what was going on … but she couldn’t.
My dad came home from work early that day. You see, my dad is a veteran from the United States Navy. I never saw him cry when he would leave for deployments, never saw him cry at funerals, never saw him cry when our dog died. He was and still is a very straight-faced, stern man. But that day when he came home from work he turned on the news.
I remember sitting on his lap as he began to cry and explain what happened to me. He explained that America was hurting. We were mourning the loss of so many people who were affected by this tragedy. But we were also mourning what would soon be coming, a war.
We sat there that night and watched our president address the American people. I remember him saying that hell fire would land upon those who had attacked our country, our people.
I remember my dad saying “this is our country. This is our home”, and the next day him trying to figure out a way to reenlist to go back over seas and fight.
I later married a man that was in the army. I remember a few years before he passed away asking him why he decided that being a U.S. solider was what he wanted to do. He said “9/11. I will never forget what that did to our country, and I will lay down my life for it”.
September 11 changed my life and so many others. It shaped us into the adults we are now and the pride we have for our country.
I hope I never experience that kind of horror again
I remember like it was yesterday…
I was making the bed, listening to The Morning Show on QVC. It was always a fun news program. The hosts suddenly stopped laughing, and talking, mid sentence, and said a plane had crashed into one of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. They were immediately going off air, and we should tune into our local news stations. At that point, I thought it was a tragic accident. Then, as I watched the second plane hit the second tower, I knew it was not an accident.
Then the Pentagon, and then the brave souls that stormed the terrorists, ultimately crashing their hijacked plane into a rural field in Pennsylvania, giving their own lives to save who knows how many lives. I was horrified and terrified at the same time. I had never dreamed of an attack on our own soil, and I had no idea if it was over. Of course I was glued to the TV for the rest of the day, paralyzed with grief.
And then I remember our country coming together. Even people who did not necessarily care for New Yorkers, or people in the Pentagon, rallied with help and support. The people who crashed the fourth plane into a field were lauded as heroes. The first responders, and ordinary citizens, risking their own lives to try to save possible survivors. Ordinary citizens like Donald Trump, going to the site, with their own workers to help. American flags went up across the entire country. Miles upon miles of flags flying. We were clearly United as one. Then other countries flew our flag in support.
Sadly, the flags gradually came down. Mine has not. My American Flag has flown nonstop since September 11, 2001, and it is not going to come down. The only alteration I have made is a taller flag pole, and a bigger flag.
I hope I never experience that kind of horror again, and I truly hope we all unite as one, before something so evil and tragic does happen again.
United We Stand, Divided We Fall
No one really understood what was going on
It was my first day of school at an old Catholic Highschool in New Jersey. I was new and getting use to how things work there when over the morning announcements we heard about the first plane and then heard about the second plane.
There were no TVs so it felt like we were hearing about this situation over the radio; it was so crazy and confusing as a 16 year old. No one really understood what was going on. It wasn’t until we were released from school later that day that my friend and I went to a pizza shop in Atlantic City and watched the news on a small TV in disbelief.
We were scared to be close to NYC and thought something would happen to the casinos next. It was a very difficult thing to process as a teenager. A lot of people live in New Jersey and commute to New York City to work. I knew someone whose father was in one of those towers and didn’t make it.
I will be flying home to New Jersey over 9/11 weekend and I am a little scared about it to be honest with everything going on right now and it being the 20 year anniversary.
Next week … the skies were empty
Working in television news in San Diego, my morning coffee was greeted by a smoking building on the morning news. As I watched, the second tower was hit by a plane and I bolted off to the station without waiting for the page to come.
As I dragged a large suitcase full of electronic gear to the roof of city hall for a live shot with the mayor, I worried about being mistaken for a terrorist in the staircase, and shot by security.
The entire next week my usual alarm clock of planes taking off from Lindburgh Field was missing, as the skies were empty of all commercial traffic.
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Editor’s note: This story was updated at 6:45 p.m. to include a response from the Bureau of Land Management’s national office.