So where were you?
Where were you when you first heard of the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001?
Where were you when the world changed?
I was dropping our youngest off at middle school and heard on the radio that an aircraft accident with a building was being reported in New York City. The announcer promised to check the news source as he went to a commercial. He wanted to be sure before reporting it.
I’d been to the top of the towers and understood the colossal size of the buildings. A small plane would just be swallowed up by them, I imagined.
Then I went on to make my first stop on my Tuesday set of errands.
PHOTOS: Urbana 9/11 Memorial Observance
On Sept 11, 2001, I had a new job as the editor of the Enon Messenger, which by the way is no longer published.
I needed to stop by to ask Ruth Peters a question. Peters was a council member for the Village of Enon. I knocked on her door and after a long delay she answered. When Ruth grabbed my arm and said that I needed to come see what was happening on TV.
I didn’t know what to expect. As I walked into the room the second plane hit the second tower.
I froze and stared at the screen. What in the world was happening?
Then the jumpers began. People were jumping. Jumping and dying right in front of us. This was in real time. Live. I sat down, numb, with my eyes and mouth wide open. Neither of us had any words.
When I caught my breath, I called my husband who was teaching Navy JROTC in a Dayton High School. They hadn’t heard yet and I could hear the group moan in the background as they turned on the TV in his classroom.
Ruth and I watched the chaos unfold on the television. I think I will always think of Ruth on the anniversary of that day, both of us helplessly watching the world fall apart.
It was deadline day for weekly papers so I had to forge on with the schedule and stopped by the Clark County Sheriffs’s office to pick up the reports. For a long time no one came to the desk, down the hall I could see a room full of uniformed deputies and heard the collective yell as it was reported that the Pentagon has also taken a hit.
In our New Carlisle office I learned the terrible truth. The black and white TV showed a cloud of dust and empty space of where the first tower had stood. It would have been the same image with a color TV.
Then the next tower collapsed the same way. In my heart I knew we had just watched hundred’s of firefighters die and I cried.
Were we at war?
The speculation and fear went on for what seemed like hours until we heard of another crash, but into a field this time.
All airplanes were ordered to land immediately. We saw a couple of planes after that in a landing pattern for Dayton then the bright blue September skies grew quiet.
Normally we have so many airplanes in the sky above us here near Wright Patterson, Dayton International, Springfield Guard Base and our small civilian fields like Andy Barnhart here in New Carlisle.
It was so strange to not see any planes, then to our surprise in the distance we saw what we thought was Air Force One or Two, or something similar to it land at Wright Patt.
I don’t know how we got our newspapers out that day. Mine had gone to press early so had no news of the attack. I was sure the town would think I was an idiot the next day when it would be delivered. The New Carlisle Sun (also no longer published) had some of the news, but we had to go to press not knowing much.
I remember someone brought the Dayton Daily News Special edition into our office and we were dumbstruck by the front page photo of orange flames erupting out of the white towers against the bright blue sky.
I was anxious to get home and have the family safely under our roof.
At home I discovered that I was a terrible parent for leaving our youngest in school all day when other parents had picked their students up. It hadn’t even occurred to me to pick her up. I felt she was safe there but hadn’t thought of what it would be like for a young person watching the disaster coverage all day long without a parent to hold her. I felt horrible. (I’m still sorry, Sweetheart.)
Our middle daughter called from college where a professor had told them that America deserved the attack. Some students walked out. She was angry. I was one of scores of parents who complained. We were ignored.
Our oldest daughter called to tell me she was in a long line at the gas station in Enon. It was the old station not the new Speedway and the lines ran down Main Street both ways.
We learned that Enon’s Fire Chief at that time Dave Stitzel had within hours of the attack gone to New York City with Ohio Task Force One. Former Fire Chief Bob McKee was also there in another capacity.
Military families were on pins and needles wondering if loved ones would deploy or if reservists, or even retired, would be activated.
And for the first time I read the word “al Qaeda.” I had no idea who or what it was. Or why they did this.
The fire department was waiting along I-70 when Chief Stitzel returned a week later. He told us that overheads all the way home were filled with people waving flags. The nation was coming together to face the challenges.
It was weeks until casualty lists came out, and we learned that Navy Captain Jack Punches, a pilot friend of my husband’s had been killed in the Pentagon on what had begun as a normal day in the office. I worried about his wife and family.
It’s been 18 years now. I’ve written down my memories of that day so I don’t forget. It’s important to do that.
History has a way of sanitizing things and losing facts in the fog. I don’t want to forget the shock of the attack, of that day.Over the centuries we Americans have “Remembered the Alamo,” “Remembered the Maine,” “Remembered Pearl Harbor” and now we “Remember 9/11.”
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