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Our readers share their memories of September 11

For the 20th Anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks, Metro Voice asked our readers for their memories of that morning. For most, the images remain difficult. They still create a pit of deep sorrow in your stomach.

They do for me.

There’s a scene in the movie “Signs” where Merrill Hess, played by Joaquin Phoenix, is watching a news report as his own family faces an unknown threat. So shocked and horrified is Merrill that he recoils, covering his mouth with his hand as he stumbles backward from the TV.

That’s not far from the truth for people around the world as we watched live coverage of the attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and the downing of Flight 93.

First, there’s the confusion. Your mind cannot grasp what you are seeing. Then recognition. The world’s tallest buildings have collapsed in fiery smoke and hundreds of thousands of your fellow citizens are running for their lives through the streets of New York. The Pentagon – center of the greatest military power ever known – is on fire. Jet planes, maybe even those flying over your own city, have been turned into weapons. Then, perhaps, fear as you think of the people you love whom you are responsible for – especially your children. Who’s next?

Perhaps your memory is similar.

We print these recollections, in part, to honor the thousands we lost that day and in the days since. To remember all that was lost. And perhaps some things that were gained, like faith or deepened relationships.

We’ve included a photo and city of each contributor. Some of our contributors are well-known in their industries, political, or ministry circles. We’ve purposely not included any titles or accomplishments because on September 11, 2001, our humanity made us one.

Memories of 9/11

In the twinkling of an eye, New York City’s skyline and psyche were forever altered when two hijacked jets knocked down the World Trade Center on the morning of September 11, 2001. The subsequent plane crashes at the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania further traumatized an already staggering city. With thousands presumed dead and damage in the billions, words like catastrophe, apocalypse, and devastation were heard more often than the taxicab horns that serenade the streets of Manhattan.

But if you listened closely amidst the chaos and confusion, you would have heard saintly men and women speaking life and hope into the situation. Before the last piece of ash fell to the ground, words like comfort, awakening, and restoration had also made their way to the forefront.

That day and especially that night, many churches in New York City, New Jersey, and Connecticut and across the United States were filled to capacity as a shaken nation turned to God for answers. That evening, President George W. Bush reminded us of Psalm 23. He also declared September 14 as a National Day of Prayer.

Tom Campisi
New Jersey

I was at Boone Hospital going through patient charts for the physician I was working with when one of the patients hollered at the nurses to come watch her television, showing the replays of the twin towers bombings.  Everyone was in shock, and quiet, trying to comprehend what had happened. Never forget….

Pam Temple

Columbia, Mo.

It was 9 a.m., September 11, 2001. I was on my way to work. I turned on the radio, and knew immediately something horrific had happened. I called my husband, and told him to turn on the TV. Something was going on and he should check it out.

When I got to the office, the TV and computer were showing the most disturbing scenes. We were watching our country being attacked as it was happening.

We went outside and watched numerous airplanes circling the Kansas City area, waiting for clearance to land. President Bush had ordered all planes to land, everywhere in the USA. Planes had been hijacked and had crashed into the World Trade Center Twin Towers. Then the Pentagon was attacked and also a plane crashed in a field in Pennsylvania, the result of heroes intercepting another planned attack.

Watching as these terrible acts were actually happening, the act of terrorism, still is imbedded in my mind.  Hearing survivors speak of their experience. Stories of the many heroes risking their lives for others.

It was heartbreaking, yet it made me even more proud to be an American. For a while, Americans joined together to pray and join forces for our country.

God Bless America!

Katie Myers,
Lorhville, Iowa

I remember being at work when the events began to unfold.  We watched non-stop coverage on TV.  All work stopped for that day, replaced by silent sadness.

Jed Angell
Centralia, Missouri

News in India hit the TV channels in the night. My thoughts went back to December 1941, “Have the Japanese returned to revenge Hiroshima and Nagasaki?” When the Japanese were negated and the Al Qaida surfaced my memory is still fresh the CNN TV news headlines, “No one could predict what lay ahead for America.”

America as the world saw, was the most invincible super power in the world. But it pained us to see it salvaging lives and human debris on its knees, post 9/11. We all think we are immortal until we die.

Two decades later, the good news is we are alive, still; not so good news is none of us knows how long we live. May we seek to be taught to number our days so we can apply God’s wisdom to our hearts and live, redeeming time.

Sunny Joseph
Vishakapatnam, AP, India

I was a 34-year-old second year law student preparing for a day of classes in Ann Arbor, Michigan. My wife shouted down to the basement, “A plane just flew into the World Trade Center!” Assuming it was a small, single engine prop plane in some type of accident, I responded, “Was it cloudy?” When the second plane hit, like everyone else, I knew it was no accident. A few weeks later, I was interviewed by a Wall Street Journal reporter who was doing an article about the U.S. military response and American students protesting that response on college campuses. In that article, the reporter quoted me, as a veteran, quoting Thomas Paine, the Revolutionary War era patriot. Paine wrote, “Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom, must like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it.”

Chris McGowan
Sioux City, Iowa

I was in the Air Force and was on duty working base security the morning of 9/11.  My partner and I were working in a remote part of the base, so the information coming in was very slow to arrive.  I remember hearing that a plane had hit one of the towers.  At that time, it seemed like it was just a plane crash.  When we learned that another plane had hit the second tower, we knew that it was something much more.  I remember the base going into the highest level of security, which was something we had only done during exercises.  I never thought we would ever see that happen in a real world situation.  If I remember right, we stayed in that level of security for several weeks, if not months, afterward.  I remember not being able to contact my wife that morning, and being very worried because we still did not have a full picture of what was happening.  When I finally saw a TV and the pictures and video of what was happening, I remember feeling so much grief for all of the people involved.  It was a very tragic day, but for me, the one silver lining was the country unifying for that brief time.

James Brock
Pleasant Hill, Missouri

I was working at a Lawn and Garden Supply store in Eatonton, Georgia. I was helping a customer and afterwards, I came in and everyone was staring at the TV. I seem to remember seeing one of the planes go into the building and stood in wonder watching it all unfold.

Todd Abraham
Athens, Tennessee

It was a morning like any other. I was preparing to go to the office, but I was transfixed by the live TV news coverage of the first tower burning.  The news anchors were uncertain if it was intentional or accidental. Maybe a private plane strayed from its flight path. There were so many questions, when suddenly the second airliner swooped in fast and low slamming directly into tower number 2.  No more uncertainty. We were under attack.  I hurried to the office and recorded prayer alerts to be broadcast across Bott Radio Network.  Believers were praying all across America.

Rich Bott
Overland Park, Kansas

I was getting ready to leave for work.  I passed the TV and saw video of the planes hitting the towers. I thought my husband had accidentally left on an old movie and walked on out. When I arrived at work, people were frightened & crying and debating going home to be with loved ones or say goodbye to those who might be called to duty.  We all called family in stolen moments.

I was asked by the Governor’s office to remain at the facility.  We were glued to the news, we began to try and conserve phone use as it was feared the systems would crash due to the surge to mobilize resources and talk to and warn loved ones. We contacted a local CB network and every other resource we could think of to try and ensure communication and safety. We rushed to gas up agency cars in case emergency travel was necessary as gas stations were being swamped with people fearful they would need to get to loved ones quickly or evacuate. We waited and we prayed…
In the following days we were sometimes fearful. Pearl Harbor was a topic as we had thought that after the war an attack on American soil could never again happen. We looked to God and supported each other & we mourned the fallen. When the President spoke to the people and brought America to her feet in faith, defiance of evil and promise of retribution we rejoiced! We picked up the broken pieces and moved forward as America took again to the tasks of guarding freedom because we knew God was with us! We move forward but we do not forget.

Diana Garber
Warrensburg, Missouri

I have three specific memories of Sept. 11, 2001, and a few vague memories that might or might not be accurate.

I awoke early that morning, before my alarm. In the kitchen, I turned on the radio and listened to a local sports talk program. I was able to call in to get my name entered into a contest to win tickets to an upcoming football game.

I was a bit late and started my half-hour commute with the radio tuned to the same sports talk show. I wanted sports info, but I also wanted to know how the contest I’d entered earlier was progressing. They broke in with news — a passenger jet had struck one of the twin towers in New York. I switched to a news station to learn more. I silently prayed that those in the tower would be safe.

Then, just before I reached my office — I can still picture that section of the road — the newscaster announced that the second tower had been hit. I kept praying, knowing this couldn’t have been two accidents.

In the office, the memories meld together. The air felt tense as news traveled around the building. I, like many others, watched news online while trying to work. In a few conference rooms, TVs were set up. People gathered to pray as news came in.

Early that afternoon, my boss, Judy, asked me to step into a conference room. She told me that she and two others on our magazine team (our lead writer/editor and our photo team leader) would rent a van and drive to New York City to report about Cru staff members in the midst of this tragedy.

As managing editor, I knew this would throw off our work on the next issue. I mentioned that, but she simply and firmly told me that this took priority. (I knew that, but my job included keeping us on schedule.) By sunset, they were packed and on the way, driving through the night.

Marc Winz

Well, to say the least an unforgettable day.  I just woke up to the phone ringing. It was my Mom. She only calls when something is SUPER important! She had known that I was in Florida on business and wanted to know where I was and if okay.  I had flown home on the evening of the 10th late and slept in that morning. We talk often but she doesn’t like the long distance charges on her landline.  I was told to turn on the TV and I was shocked, sad, and A-N-G-R-Y!  Like many, I first thought it was an accident or lone wolf plane like out of a Clancy novel.  Then the second plane hit and I was even more stunned.  I was waiting for this to be our generation’s “War of the Worlds” event because I could not get my head wrapped around the situation.  I wanted to avenge the United States but did not know who was responsible for this massacre of innocent Americans!  Make no mistake, while tragic, it was a premeditated act of Man against Man that NEVER should have happened.  I want us all to be safe from this unholy war being waged by Islamic fundamentalists and I am not sure that fighting two wars in the last twenty years was warranted as it came at a very high cost.  I just watched a thousand motorcycles escort Lance Corporal Jared Schmitz home to his final resting place.  Trying to wage a war against an ideology such as communism or a rogue religion is something that we as freedom loving Americans do not have the stomach.  I was so saddened to see the photos after the killings that each of those people and to know that such a terrible and inhumane act of war hurt so many still living in addition to those murdered.  I am rambling now and getting worked up as this stirs my blood to a boil!

Carl R. Power
St. Peters, Missouri

I will never forget that day. It was my daughter Elise’s 5th birthday and my mother was visiting from out-of-town. My husband Mark called from work telling us to turn on the TV. At that point only the first plane had hit and commentators speculated it was a small private airplane that accidentally crashed. Then, in horror, we watched the live feed as the second plane appeared and crashed into the second tower. We knew then, this was no accident.
I remember later that day my mom & I sweeping our back patio in silence. We had no words, no ability to process the events. The weather was beautiful but it was a dark and tragic day.

We went to Fritz’s in Crown Center for lunch to celebrate Elise’s 5th birthday. It was a ghost town, we were their only customers. Most businesses had closed for the day.

Julie Johnson
Newtown, Connecticut

On Monday, September 10, 2001, I played in a FCA Golf Marathon fundraiser which wiped me out. Normally, I get up between 5:00 – 6:00 a.m. every day, but on 9/11 I slept in. I was awaken by our neighbor across the street who phoned my wife and said to turn on the TV. Seconds later, I went from a groggy “where am I” state to trying to wrap my mind around what I was now seeing. Initially, I thought it must have been a serious pilot error but when the second plane hit the Towers, I knew something was terribly wrong. I told my wife that if there were two planes, then there were probably more attacks coming soon which proved to be true. Throughout the morning, I was on the phone praying with family and friends as they shared their own reflections. Two weeks later (September 26, 2001), our ministry, Character that Counts, launched “TGIW: Teaching God’s Infinite Wisdom” at Souper Salad Restaurant with 34 men in attendance from over 10 different churches. Twenty years later, we are still are meeting every Tuesday and Wednesday morning, with thousands of men across the KC Metro participating in at least one meeting. The events of 9/11 awoke many from their slumber. It prompted many people to pray and talk about faith issues.

Rod Handley
Lee’s Summit, Missouri

I had 3 kids in high school.  I remember clearly how the school released them to go home and we all 5 just stared at the tv   We we’re just in shock.  Also. To fly a plane and use it as a weapon is an idea just so far outside the box that it was just so unthinkable and then to see what evil   Malicious and premeditated.  Looks like.  It was so evil and destructive of that which we hold so sacred.  Life.  Innocent life.  Our hearts were one with the people of New York.

Chuck Jansen
Overland Park, Kansas

I was at home taking care of my three children when my dad called me to tell me to turn on my TV.  At that moment we thought it was only a small passenger plane that hit the tower.  But then we watched live as the second large airliner hit the towers.

I remember up until that moment thinking it was only an accident.  But when the second hit I knew differently.  I couldn’t imagine the loss of life.  Then I felt a little better because some of the initial reports were that it was a cargo plane.  I thought well at least it wasn’t an entire plane of innocent people.  It really is the most sinking feeling when you realize many of your fellow Americans just died and you don’t even know how many.  Then when the towers fell and they were estimating as many as 10,000 may have perished I remember just sitting down on the floor and crying.  It was the same feeling I had in the 90’s with the Oklahoma City bombing but times 1000.  So many innocent people.  Moms, Dads, brothers, sisters, Aunts and Uncles started their days like all of us and yet it was their last.

In a twisted sort of way you are glad it wasn’t you or your family knowing that so many family’s lives were forever changed in those moments.  From then on we all stayed glued to our TVs as the day’s events unfolded.  This generation had literally witnessed a Pearl Harbor equivalent attack on our homeland minus the loss of military assets.  No generation wants to claim that.  For weeks we stayed glued to our television hoping for answers and understanding.  Watching the acts of heroism and stories of valor unfold day by day.  It was such a weird melting pot of emotions from feeling of wanting revenge, sorrow, bravery, regret, gratitude, patriotism and the list goes on.

We had just returned from a vacation on Sunday from Las Vegas.  My children were staying with my sister.  If we had tried to travel three days later we would possibly not made it out of Las Vegas and would have been separated from my very young children for who knows how long.  A friend of ours did get stuck there.  No flights out, all rental cars taken.  He was there an extra week and it cost him an additional $3,000 in hotels and expenses.  We were pretty lucky.  And there in lies some guilt because the worst that would have happened to us was a longer separation from our children.  We didn’t actually lose anyone like so many others.

I guess none of us will ever forget that day!

Sandy Strouse-Baker
St. Louis, Missouri

I started work as an IT Specialist at the Defense Finance and Accounting Service in Indianapolis on Tuesday, September 11, 2001 at 6:30 a.m. as usual. Sometime after 8:30 a.m., a coworker who sat in a cubicle near me arrived for work and told me that an airplane had hit one of the World Trade Center towers in New York City. My initial thought was that it must have been a small private plane that accidentally went off course and nicked the building. Soon word got around the office that something major was happening in New York.

I phoned my wife Paula, who homeschooled our three young children, and told her to turn on the TV. I went downstairs to the building cafeteria seating area, where a few television sets were mounted on wall shelves. I joined the group of fellow Department of Defense employees who were watching the shocking news live. After viewing the terror in disbelief for a while, I returned to my work area, and soon after we were dismissed from work and told to go home to be safe with our families. I spent a lot of the rest of the day watching terrible history unfold in real time on television. I think I realized that the world, at least in the United States, would never be the same again.

Steve Guernsey
Carmel, Indiana

I was headed out the door for work just before 9 AM when Kate stopped me and said “I think something is happening“. I stopped, looked at the TV, and there we sat for probably the next eight hours watching. The moment the first building came down…that is just burned into my memory. I have heard some really neat 9/11 stories from others. The kids today certainly need our help in getting the proper appreciation for what happened that day.

Ray Yonkura
Delaware, Ohio

I love/get angry at these stories but love the sharing. I actually took my senior class photo with my whole class that morning before it happened and when we went inside the school our teachers started telling us what happened. It was a surreal day and one I will always have a picture of.

Kristen Kukowski
Minneapolis, Minnesota

I remember when I got home and heard the news I started having a panic attack and my parents weren’t able to talk me down. They actually ended u calling the hospital and a nurse talked to me over the phone and was able to calm me down.

Aaron Larson
Lubbock, Texas

september 11I was in 5th grade and getting off the bus. Heard the people on the radio being hectic and then they got much louder. At the same time my bus driver gasped and had tears welling up in her eyes, I realized later that was the exact time the second plane hit! We were downstairs in our classroom and they brought in a tv for a little bit to watch it. After a short while they sent us back home and my brother and I watched the news some more.

Justin Mawhirter
Lee’s Summit, Missouri

The night before 9/11 was my little sister’s 21st birthday. We went out to eat and came home to watch the new Charlie’s Angels movie we rented. We laughed so much that night at the explosions, our sides ached.

What a stark contrast to see the real thing the next morning. This time it wasn’t funny. It was horrific! How could I have ever thought anything like that could be funny, even in a movie?!? Father, forgive me.
Later, we learned that my roommate’s dad, who was in the pentagon, found a bike and biked home to Virginia. The Lord extended his life.

Just like everyone else, I too remember that day…where I was and the unbelief and shock that I saw with my own two eyes. I was working that morning on a ten-person trading desk. We all sat in a square with market monitors surrounding us and the TV tuned to CNBC as we were getting a good start on our morning. Just like NYC, it was a beautiful blue-sky day with fall in the air. The news was talking about a plane that crashed in the World trade center tower. The speculation was someone lost control of a personal plane and ran into the building. It was quite the buzz, because it was hard to fathom, but not enough to concern ourselves in KC. Then in the middle of our morning, the news was showing a live shot of the tower and we saw the huge firebomb that was the second plane hitting the other tower. We all stopped in silence, turned up the TV and ignored all the phones ringing. As the day continued, our shock never left the room and we discussed the event and its possible implications. We really just didn’t know what to do. I left for lunch to celebrate my daughter’s fifth birthday at Fritz’s and their train delivery system for food. Even that event was overshadowed by the events of the day.

A vivid memory included the view of blue skies that evening without an airplane anywhere. I didn’t notice the air traffic generally as it was just that, traffic. I certainly was impacted that day by the lack of it.

To add to the shock of the day, we as a team knew we were moving to the NYC city suburbs in 2002. How would this impact our work in Connecticut? We did ultimately go to CT after the 40% increase in NYC suburban housing costs as people left the city. The most surreal issue of our move and the constant reminder of 9/11 were the cars that had been parked in the train’s parking garages. They had not been moved for ten months and had what seemed inches of dust on them. They were obviously left there that morning, but never retrieved. There was also the periodic unkept house in an otherwise neatly kept neighborhood where the owner had not returned from that fateful day. The reminders and stories in CT were very real and kept the tragedy front and center for our first years there.

It continues to be reminder of the evil in our world, the resilience of the human spirit and our desperate need for a savior. May God bless the USA.

Mark Johnson
Newtown, Connecticut

It was a beautiful sunny morning in Kansas. I got to work safe and things were as usual.  Suddenly one of of team members asked if we had seen the news.  She mentioned something happened in New York.  We immediately clicked on the news channel. They reported the first plane had hit a building.  While we were all puzzled and concerned about the first plane, we watched as the second plane hit the next building.  As we watched in amazement and horror we saw people jumping out of windows, and the first responders arriving.  I remember the building falling and so many people running for their lives.  After this our office closed for the day.  I went to an empty house.  I lived alone.  I did not know what to do .  I called my two sons to check on them.  I checked on my Dad and sisters, some of whom lived in different parts of the country.  After I discovered my immediate family was safe, I just sit on my couch and cried.  I cried for what our country was going through.   I cried out to God to forgive the sins of our nation.  I asked God for help.  I prayed for the folks stuck in the rubble.  Then I also cried because I was fearful. So many questions went through my head. Will our enemies send missles and bombs to America? Will we be in a war?  I finally got up from crying trying to find something to do, so I gave my house a deep cleaning. Normally we have a good amount of traffic on our street.  There was no traffic.  No one walking.  Just a very quiet and weird feeling in my neighborhood.  No neighbors talking, nothing.  Just wondering what is next.
Evelyn Hill
Kansas City, Kansas

–Dwight and Anita Widaman | Metro Voice