Pam Cottrel: What Clark County residents remember about 9/11

The sky was blue that day, that intense deep blue that only a fall sky could attain. The weather was glorious.

It was Tuesday morning and I was dropping our youngest daughter off at Indian Valley then picking up bits of information needed for my weekly newspaper. It was my first day as editor of the Enon Messenger and I needed to ask Enon Councilwoman Ruth Peters a quick question on my way to work.

I stopped by her house and rang the door bell.

Ruth opened the door without her usual smile.

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“You have to come see this,” she said as she grabbed my arm and led me to the television in the family room.

On the screen we watched an airplane fly into the World Trade Center.

“That is the second one,” she said.

I had to sit down to let that sink in.

The attacks on September 11, 2001, were our modern day Pearl Harbor. The attack was unexpected; an attack on a country at peace that changed our lives forever.

Now, 20 years later, certain things about that day will forever link all Americans. I asked a group of our western Clark County neighbors what they most remember.

This is the first of a two-part column that will continue next Wednesday.

New Carlisle Historical Society President David McWhorter saw the beginning by mere luck.

“I remember getting off third shift turning on the TV to see a special report that a plane had just crash in a skyscraper in New York,” said McWhorter.

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Alice Dayhoff-Miller from Springfield Twp. had just dropped her young daughter off at school when her husband JJ called from Chicago.

For JJ and Alice the attack was immediately personal and devastating.

JJ was a pilot for American Airlines and was in the ready room at Chicago O’Hare waiting for his flight. One plane had already struck the first tower and as they spoke the second tower was hit by an American Airlines jet.

Sadly, JJ had already looked at who was on that flight crew.

“I just saw people I know hit that tower and die,” he told her.

Enon resident Mary Beth Ratliff remembers the day well.

“I was on my way to work at Boone Saloon. It was a bright, sunny day. I heard it on the radio. As soon as I walked in I turned on the TV and a couple minutes later the second tower was hit.”

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Retired Greenon English teacher Barb Jenkins remembered that morning clearly.

“I was walking down the hall towards the teacher’s lounge when Kathy Estep ran out of her room screaming ‘OMG Barb. You gotta see this!’ I ran into her classroom just in time to see the second plane hit tower 2.

The class was quiet, not a peep, just listening to the news. I finally said that I hope they were going to get some out before the building peeled like a banana.

The kids thought I was nuts because it was concrete, glass, and steel, but my dad was a firefighter and I knew that the jet fuel/ fire could heat things to that point. I watched long enough to watch it began its peel. I couldn’t watch any more just then …”

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Another retired educator Carolyn Shuirr was teaching algebra at Northwestern High School.

“That was in the days of Channel One so we were able to watch almost from the beginning. I remember a wide-eyed freshman girl coming up to me and asking if we were going to war. I’ll never forget that.”

Robin Koons Berry, Enon, was worried about her husband, Mike.

“I was working at the health department when a co-worker told us what was happening. Turned on my radio and heard that one of the planes flew out of Logan Airport in Boston. Two hours prior, Mike had flown into Logan as he was TDY at Hanscome Air Force Base. Took three hours to reach him by cellphone.”

In 2001, Clark County Commissioner Rick Lohnes was a colonel in the Air National Guard.

Lohnes was deployed with troops from the 178th Fighter Wing to a training base in Alpena, Michigan.

“We started launching F-16s soon after the second plane hit the towers,” said Lohnes. “We just secured the base and became a 24/7 alert group for several days …”

The 9/11 stories of these western Clark County residents and others will continue in this column next Wednesday.

Please take time this week to write down your own memories of September 11, 2001, and the days following it.

This wasn’t an attack on just some buildings, it was an attack on all of us. And our lives were changed in unpredictable ways.

We each need to record our stories so that those who follow us will understand how we changed.

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