|Mike Foster, Metamora, Illinois:
It was a sunny Tuesday morning September 11, 2001 and I had just finished showering before heading into Illinois Central College to teach my 9:30 Journalism 122: Reporting and my 11 a.m. Honors English 111: Advanced Composition classes.
My wife Jo, who was a library cataloger at ICC, phoned.
“Turn on the television,” she said. “A plane just hit one of the Twin Towers.”
At first, I thought she meant the towers of the Becker Building at Jefferson and Main streets in downtown Peoria.
So I donned my bathrobe, walked into the kitchen, and turned on the Sony.
The horror wasn’t happening in my hometown.
It was in New York City.
The first tower was burning.
In the flaming fog that always such atrocities, I first thought a commercial airliner flying out of La Guardia or Newark’s Liberty International Airport had accidentally and fatally misjudged a take-off or a landing.
As I sipped my tea, the horror compounded.
The second jet hit the second building.
I got into college and directly to my J-class in room 216-B 14 minutes early.
Once the 17 survivors of Heck Month were there at 9:30, I took role.
And then I said:
“There’s no news in a newsroom. Get out of here. You (best student), go to the Veterans Affairs Office. The rest of you, go find a story, Turn one copy into the ICC Harbinger newsroom in 305-A by no later than 2 p.m. Bring me the other copy Thursday. Sharpen your pencils and your minds. Get it right. Get it on time. ABCDE. Accuracy, Brevity, Clarity, Deadline, Enterprise. You and I both know that you can do this. Go get ‘em.”
Now the Harbinger, which I’d been told by Dr. James Tidwell who was talking to the president of the Illinois Press Association, the student press law authority who taught at Eastern Illinois University, was the product of “the best community college journalism program in the state.”
Never would I be prouder of and happier for my students than that day.
The Sept. 13 issue was all laid out.
Tear it up.
The editor-in-chief, John Chambers, came to my office in 316-B, to show me the final dummy sheets with the articles and headlines pasted in and the photos sized and ready to go.
I told him what was cooking with the 9/11 atrocity and my J.122 class.
“Can’t it wait till our next issue?” he said, dismayed.
They’d put in a lot of work into production.
I knew that and I commiserated.
Just then the associate editor Kevin Sampier strode in.
“John, we gotta remake,” he said.
“That’s just what I was suggesting,” I said.
We three went over the issue.
Those feature interviews with philosophy professor and musician Brooks McDaniel, volleyball star Annie Gregory and volleyball coach Sue Sinclair, and Jazz Band director Larry Harms could be bumped ahead to the Oct. 4 issue.
A few photos could be sized down from four columns to three or three to two.
After my Honors comp class ended at 12:15, I taped up a ready-made “Prof. Foster’s afternoon office have been relocated to rm. 306-B” sign on the outside and booked it to the newspaper office with by brown bag and a can of Coke.
With J.122 students coming in steadily with stories and the editors as well, it was a Harbinger hurly-burly.
I called my 9/11 tipster Jo and said I might be a bit late getting home for supper.
But the staff rose to the occasion.
I was home in time for the 6 o’clock news.
It was odd to see no jet contrails in the bright blue friendly skies above Foster Farm southwest of Metamora.
Wednesday the editors and I went down to the printer in Canton to do the fine tuning.
Thursday the issue arrived on the college loading dock before 11.
The J.122 students were there to help the staff distribute them to the East Peoria campus.
After my Honors 111 class ended at 12:15, I scarfed down my peanut butter on whole-grain wheat sandwich and my homegrown Golden Delicious apple and went to the newsroom.
I grabbed a couple of bundles and marched around the third floor, a paper boy again as I had been in Peoria from 1957 to 1962.
To flummoxed faculty and amazed administrators who I accosted, I said, “I’m working my way through college with this newspaper route. Thanks. Have a paper. It’s free and it’s worth every copper penny.”
It was a stunning issue.
In my 34 years as faculty advisor to the ICC student newspaper, never was I prouder of the Harbinger crew.
I retired in 2005.
A few years later, I was teaching my course in J.R.R. Tolkien at Bradley University in Peoria.
I chanced to meet Amanda Welsh, one of those stellar J.122 newspersons, on the Bradley Hall elevator as I ascended to my classroom.
“That day changed my life,” she said. “I took that class as an elective because I liked to write and it fit into my schedule. But after that, I wanted more.”
“Thank you,” I replied. “When you are a journalist, your drug of choice is adrenalin.”
It still is, with this blog.
Well, the rest is history.
Pres. George W. Bush and his Rasputin, Dick Cheney, used 9/11 as an excuse to invade Iraq, the biggest gas station heist in the chronicles of crime.
They should have wreaked revenge on Saudi Arabia, home of the terrorist pilots, but the Bush family had oil ties to that nation.
They began a war whose bitter fruits are still poisoning us fifteen years later.
The biggest and bitterest fruit of that era is Donald Trump.
We are still counting casualties to that hideous and mismanaged Iraq butchery that cost so many lives, slew so many innocents, left so many families bereft
But so it goes.
And so it went.
That Thursday might, our band A Fine Kettle Of Fish taught ourselves Paul Simon’s “American Tune.”
Johann Sebastian Bach’s “O, Sacred Head Enfolded, By Crown Of Piercing Thorns” is the hymn the melody upon which Simon’s elegy is based.
The lyric concludes this:
“Oh, we come the ship they called the Mayflower / We come on the ship that sailed the moon / We come on a ship that sailed the moon / We come in the ages most uncertain / And we sing an American tune / But it’s all right / It’s all right / You can’t be forever blessed / Still, tomorrow’s going be another working day / And I’m trying ti get my rest / That’s all / I’m just trying to get some rest.”
On Sunday, Sept. 11, we will pray for healing for the hearts and minds and souls of all of God’s bereaved children, mourning and weeping in the valley of tears.
And on Thursday night, the six Fish will sing “American Tune.”
What will you do, gentle reader?
John Patrick Poehls, Nussbloch, Germany:
I was sitting in my office at Headquarters, Army 5th Signal Command, Mannheim Käfertal, Germany, in the middle of composing a message to my office at the Pentagon.
One of my colleagues ran in my office and told me a plane just hit one of the towers.
I thought he meant a small private plane and told him I was messaging the Pentagon and when finished I would join him at the Operations Center where we had a large monitor with a feed from the States.
He said “John, you really need to come over to the OpsCtr right now and see what’s going on in the States”, so I did.
Our base went on lockdown immediately.
I transferred to Germany, arriving June 1 2000, one year, three months and eleven days prior to the attack.
That section of the Pentagon where the plane had hit had just completed renovation as part of a building-wide renovation project.
I frequently had morning meetings with a group in that section and had I still been there, might have as well been there that morning.
A friend of mine whose office was there, happened to be out of his office and at another location in the building at the time.
He was the first one I tried to reach but I was not successful in reaching him until the next day; we both were quite shaken knowing who was there and fell that day.
Michele Horaney, Alameda, California:
Living in the SF area and working at Stanford’s Hoover Institution as manager of public affairs.
Came out of the shower that morning, turned on the radio, heard the news and imagined, hoped it had to be a dream.
Did not seem possible that a plane and then planes were hitting the World Trade Center in New York.
Went into work and started getting calls for foreign affairs and national security experts and commentary from Hoover fellows.
Steady stream of media rolling in over the next few hours.
Then we had to evacuate our buildings because of a bomb threat that was called in to Stanford campus police.
We all moved outside and the media kept coming and did their interviews under the trees.
The director closed the Institution for the day around 1 p.m. because we still were not allowed back inside.
And, for some reason, I went on a first date that night, as had been planned.
Do not ask me why.
Must have thought that just moving along with the schedule was a good idea.
Worst two hours ever.
Dan Sutton, Peoria, Illinois:
I was at work. A friend called me and said “Turn on the tv.”
“Just go turn on the TV and call me back later.”
We stayed glued to the TV most of the day.
After the second plane hit the South Tower, it was obvious an attack had happened.
When it was reported another hijacked plane had hit the Pentagon I was shocked.
After two planes had been hijacked and flown into the World trade Center, where were our defenses?
Later that day around 4:45 p.m., I went outside and there was a plane flying overhead, west to east.
It was unnerving because it was announced earlier that all commercial air traffic was halted and no planes were in the air.
I didn’t know it until later but the plane I saw must have been Air Force One with the President on board headed back to Washington.
It’s hard to believe 15 years have passed since events that lead to the longest war in US history.
Timothy Gura, Pittsboro, North Carolina:
On the morning of 9/11. I was heading into class at Brooklyn College when a colleague told me that the World Trade Center had been hit.
I said that I couldn’t believe that, but that I was late for class.
When the class was over, the world had changed.
The College was closing at noon—a necessity because the subways had been closed—and to get home (then, in Forest Hills, in Queens) I had to take a bus down Flatbush Avenue to Atlantic Avenue, where I could get a LIRR train out of the city and further out onto Long Island.
While the bus rolled, on my left I saw the billowing clouds at the base of Manhattan, and when it arrived it was the first time I could smell the distinctive, acrid smoke that hung around the city for days.
As I recall, trains were only running in that one direction then.
I was warned when I found the right track that they weren’t sure when they would be leaving, but that this train would be leaving first and it would be making all local stops.
While we waited, the cars slowly filled up with disheveled and dusty passengers who had probably walked across the Brooklyn Bridge from Wall Street.
They were quiet, calm, determined, and only when they had been seated for a while began to tell the survivor stories—where they were when the first plane hit, when the second hit, how they got out, and how they discovered that they could find themselves headed home after the shock.
And they told what they saw.
They repeatedly attempted to phone others, but the cell-phone reception was ‘iffy’ that whole afternoon.
Eventually, when the cars were full, the train left the station, and something like a sigh escaped the travelers.
We were survivors; we were making it out; we were heading to the safety of home; we were alive.
Melody Green, Urbana, Illinois:
I was teaching. My class ended and the halls were completely empty.
I found a TV lounge that was overflowing and packed with students and colleagues,
As people were explaining to me what had happened, I saw the first tower fall.
Some people cancelled class that day; I decided to keep holding my classes–I was teaching argument and research, and we were doing a unit on logical fallacies.
I decided that for the time being, we needed to keep things as calm and normal as possible (as opposed to a colleague who I saw walk through a crowd of already-scared students in the cafeteria yelling “We’ll go to war, you’ll all be drafted, and you’ll die in another country”–not helpful.)
When I went to my classes, I had a sense that I was the one who needed to give these students a sense of control over their own situations, so we talked about how important understanding logical fallacies was going to be in the coming days as we tried to make sense of what was happening.
Now, just a couple of years ago I was at a mall where a woman walked up to me and thanked me for what I did that day.
She explained that she had been in my class and was terrified.
She said that when I walked into class, I looked at them for a moment, and then said “We don’t know what is going to happen. This may be when the world we know changes forever. But I am going to make sure that you are going to walk into that new world knowing how to make sense out of what you hear. Because you are going to hear a lot.”
Apparently, that gave her a sense of control.
Stephen Thomas, Los Angeles, California:
I was in Chicago at the offices of the NASD in Chicago (in the Sears Tower as I recall) about to prosecute a claim for broker misconduct on behalf of a client who had been cheated by his stock broker.
There was a television in the conference room where the arbitration was to occur.
We were watching the morning news, waiting for the hearing to begin, when the broadcast cut to the live coverage of the incident.
One tower had been hit but it was not clear that this was a terrorist attack until we watched with horror, in real time, as the second tower was hit.
There were several lawyers sitting around the table.
A few of us wept openly.
My wife, Elaine, had made the trip up to Chicago with me and she was out looking around and shopping when the second tower was hit.
I excused myself from the meeting to go look for her.
There was talk of a possible hit on the Sears Tower and shortly after the event, they evacuated the Tower and surrounding skyscrapers.
When I went down to the street, the inhabitants of those buildings were pouring out onto the streets.
There was a strange sadness pouring over all of us, and an amazing sense of community.
I have never forgotten that feeling and as I watch the political circus we are subjected to currently, I am reminded of the power and the truth of that moment.
Mary Ann Milam, Pekin, Illinois:
I was lying in bed watching TV and I saw the second plane from 9/11 hit. I think it may have been as it happened.
Not knowing what was behind this plane hitting the twin towers at the actual time. I thought that it was an unbelievable sight that could have been thought of as an accident, but as it unfolded, it made me realize how vulnerable this country really was.
The realization hit even further when I realized that my niece’s husband was a member of the New York Fire Department and though it was his day off when 9/11 occurred, he was also a member of the NYFD Emerald Society Pipes and Drums.
I recall that he said he played for 440 funerals of those who died in that disaster during the months that followed.
I’m not sure if he played in all of those, but I am sure it was over 100.
His name is John Dwyer and many of those whom he watched being lowered into the ground were his comrades.
John still lives in New York, but he quit the bagpipers shortly after.
But I am sure the memories will be with him until he dies.
Matt Fisher, Greensburg, Pennsylvania:
I was teaching at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, and watching the horror unfold between classes.
It was one of the hardest teaching days I have ever had, as I was beyond “shocked” and “horrified.”
It was also the start of a period of several weeks where I, as a devout Christian and person with a long-standing interest and significant training in non-violence, had to grapple with my desire to be put in a room with the people responsible for the attacks and slowly, painfully, kill them.
Paula Balistreri, Chillicothe, Illinois:
I was at work when my boss called me to come into the conference room where he had the TV on.
I honestly thought he was going to show me something funny since he didn’t say anything except “Watch.”
Just then the second plane hit. It was surreal.
I couldn’t process what I was seeing for what felt like ten minutes.
I called each member of my family as we stayed glued to the TV for the rest of the day.
Now I think back and realize this must have been how my parents felt at the news of Pearl Harbor, but even more intense and personal on 9/11, thanks to modern media of the time.
|Chris Heine, Peoria, Illinois:
I was driving to work on I-74 when first tower was hit. I heard about it on the radio.
Once in my office, I watched on a TV in the foyer as the second plane flew into the second tower.
My office was on the fourth floor of 305 SW Water Street in Peoria, upstairs from Contemporary Art Center. It was clear to me after the second plane that this was no accident. I was horrified and scared.
On 9/11/2001, I was working for New Power, an energy start-up. My office was in Peoria, but the company’s headquarters were in Purchase, N.Y.
Some of my fellow employees lived in New York City just a few blocks away from the Trade Center.
They couldn’t go back home for weeks.
One of my fellow employees, Mike, drove in to Purchase every day from Trenton, New Jersey. When the attacks started, he stopped his car on the New Jersey turnpike and watched the towers fall. Knowing people who lived so near this tragedy made it even more real, even more terrifying.
The other really scary element of this event that lasted well beyond that day, was the long time period where no planes flew.
I was living in Marquette Heights.
We were under the flight path for the Peoria airport.
Sometimes, if the sun was at the right angle, plane shadows crossed our yard as flights flew overhead.
Now for many weeks following, no planes flew overhead.
Eerie. silent skies.
Katrelya Angus, Sierra Madre, California:
I was having breakfast.
Suddenly, my mother asked me to see the television – and I was shocked when 9/11 happened.
Of course, I felt terrible and frightened.
My cousin Shirley is a flight attendant from New Jersey, and I was on pins and needles.
But at that time, she was found safe and sound in San Francisco, where her previous flight had taken her.