Sept. 11, 2001: The Days Past, Present and Future:
Mike Foster, Metamora, Illinois:
Only three days before 9/11, my wife Jo and my elder daughter Martha had visited the Peoria Air National Guard base with my son-in-law Frank Campbell and my younger daughter Megan, then 27 years old.
Frank was a staff sergeant in the Guard then.
The base was hosting its annual open house.
We feasted on barbecue, baked beans, potato salad, and ice cream.
One of my recent ICC students, an ANG sergeant, chatted with me.
It was family fun.
We saw the C-130 that Frank had flown to Panama in and went up inside the back bay.
The USAF Thunderbirds precision flying drill quartet flew over.
The earth shook.
Three days later in New York City, Washington D.C., and Pennsylvania, the earth shook again.
But much harder.
And it was family tragedy, not family fun.
On Sept. 11, the base closed.
No jet contrails filled the sky for the rest of the month.
The week wore on.
The ICC student newspaper Harbinger’s splendid coverage of the horrible atrocity of 9/11, as detailed in my post of Sept 11, 2016, made me happy despite the hideous horror and proud despite our nation’s pain.
The editors had totally discarded the laid-out issue that was ready to be put to bed.
Between noon and 5 p.m., the editors had wholly remade the Sept. 13 newspaper.
The Harbinger, which I’d been told by Dr. James Tidwell, the student press law authority who taught at Eastern Illinois University, who was talking to the president of the Illinois Press Association, was the product of “the best community college journalism program in the state,” prided itself on making deadline and publishing every third Thursday
They did it, and they did it with style, class, and evergy.
That issue cinched the newspaper’s first place award for overall excellence in the Illinois Community College Journalism Association’s annual newspaper contest.
Sunday came, Sept. 16.
We St. Mary of Lourdes parishioners in Germantown Hills were yearning for a sermon full of solace and sensibility.
We did not receive it.
Our new and short-lived Franciscan assistant pastor, Fr. Bill, instead spoke of the Prodigal Son of the gospel of Luke’s 15:31.
Thank God that this Sunday, 9/11/16, the crystal anniversary of the day that America’s heart was shattered like a crystal goblet full of blood-hued wine, sounding a G# note, as in grief sharpened, we got the consolation denied us fifteen years ago.
Our present pastor, Fr. Greg Jozefiak, began his homily by calling for a moment of prayerful silence for the victims of 9/11 and other more recent vile and vicious terrorist atrocities around the world.
He tied the suffering bereavement of those victims to Christ crucified and the grief of his mother and his apostles, disciples, and loving friends, like Mary Magdalene, for whom, indirectly, our elder grand-daughter Madeleine was named.
She was there with Jo, my elder daughter Martha, and Madeleine Grace’s sister Emma Claire, and their mother, our younger daughter, Megan Hope Campbell.
He recalled the brave men of Flight 93 which crashed in a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, thwarting the terrorist pilots’ plan to crash into—who knows? The Statue of Liberty? Independence Hall in Philadelphia?
He asked if we remembered their battle cry.
“Let’s roll!” I said from my seat on the right end of the first pew on the left side, before the Mary altar.
“Right,” said Fr. Greg. “So let’s roll in our commitment to the faith of our fathers. Let us be as brave as those men were.”
And with that, he turned and returned to the altar and proceeded in the rite that comments the suffering, the body and the blood of Jesus.
Silently prayerful, I thought of what I had written and posted yesterday.
And I also thought of the conclusion of the Gettysburg Address of Abraham Lincoln, one of the three great Presidents to come out of Illinois:
“But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow, this ground.
The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract.
The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.
It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.
It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
And as Gandalf The White said in “The Grey Havens,” the final chapter of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord Of The Rings:
“I will not say: do not weep; for not all tears are an evil.”
Jill Peterson, East Peoria:
I was job-shared in East Peoria between the city and the chamber of commerce, doing public relations for both entities.
The chamber had a breakfast planned to celebrate its anniversary.
I wore a really pretty light pink two-piece dress to the office for the breakfast and that is when I found out the towers had been hit.
I had to leave the breakfast to go to the city staff meeting, and we saw the second tower fall on TV and could see in a split screen something on fire in Washington which we quickly learned was the Pentagon.
My husband Eric was working second shift and about 11 a.m. I felt I needed to call and wake him up to tell him what was going on.
When he finally answered the phone, I told him to turn on the TV. I repeated it twice. He finally asked “What channel?” I replied “ANY channel!”
He asked what he was looking at and I told him, crying, what had happened, ending with saying “We have been attacked and are going to be at war.”
The sky was a beautiful clear blue and it was so strange to see no planes in the sky.
I was working on copy for an annual December holiday guide, and that day I couldn’t write. I couldn’t find any words; there just were none.
I remember as the work day went on feeling very inappropriately dressed in pink.
That night, while Eric was at work, our sixth-grade son Zack and I lit a candle on the porch and said the Lord’s Prayer.
I never wore that pink suit again.
Craig Moore, Peoria, Illinois:
I was up early, as usual, having my first cup of coffee, watching the “Today” show, as usual,
But Matt Lauer was talking about something UNusual having just happened at the World Trade Center.
They were saying something vague about an explosion, that an NBC camera crew was on the way to the Trade Center, and they would be reporting live shortly.
Within a few minutes indeed, there was a feed from a helicopter-borne camera crew, showing the south tower belching smoke and a horrible, angled gash in one side, with flames licking at the exterior from the incredible open wound caused, apparently, by an airplane crashing into the building.
At that moment, everyone presumed this to have been an accident, despite the crystal-clear bright blue cloudless sky.
I was immediately transfixed, I began channel surfing, NBC, CBS, CNN, ABC, Fox (although I was not yet in the habit of watching Fox), every channel was on one story, every channel had similar camera angles or a common feed.
I was watching NBC with a long shot of the two towers when we saw the second plane fly straight into the North Tower.
At first it wasn’t fully recognized, but then they replayed it and highlighted the plane as it came in, and in those few seconds the world realized we were under attack.
I was due to open my [Younger Than Yesterday music] shop at 10 a.m., but I could not leave the event unfolding in front of me on TV.
Reports started devolving into panicked announcements from on-site reporters.
Unverified statements were broadcast as probable facts.
News helicopter and cameras from every conceivable angle captured horrific scenes that as of today have still never been shown again on any of the documentaries.
In particular, a close-up shot of four or five people jumping from the South Tower in a group, holding hands.
A well-dressed, somewhat heavy lady in a grey and black herringbone business suit of a skirt, jacket and white shirt was at one end of the group. She lost her grip on the man next to her and started frantically trying to swim though the air back to her group, unsuccessfully, and they fell some 100 stories to their deaths on camera.
Jumpers were everywhere, helicopter cameramen, uncomfortably close to such events, captured some of these tragedies with pathetic detail.
When the Pentagon was hit, it seemed that World War III had finally landed in America.
I couldn’t believe that the Pentagon explosion was actually another plane, but it was only a matter of minutes before everyone accepted the obvious.
I was filled with shock, awe, revulsion, and anger, and like everyone else watching on TV, totally helpless to do anything at all except try to process the information as best I could.
After the towers had both fallen, all that was left for me to do was stare at the television in disbelief.
Eventually I went to my shop where I had a small TV, and a few people who were somehow blissfully ignorant of what had happened came through the door, saw the news reports, picked their jaws up off the floor and ran back out to their homes.
The world had entered unknown territory.
New York had become Pearl Harbor. Coming up on September 16, I had two things on the calendar: the next Collectible Records Convention at Peoria’s Packard Plaza, and I was due to fly to Moscow to meet my fiancee Marina who would be flying in from Volgograd.
Life was now on hold.
Summer Slevin, Urbana, Illinois
On September 11, 2001, I was nine years old.
I was sitting in third grade when the principal came into the class and asked to speak to our teacher in the hall.
When she left the room, we promptly started laughing and talking loudly to one another.
When she came back in, she said that we were going to dismissed early.
She didn’t give any details. We thought this was tremendously exciting. It was a friend of mine’s birthday and he thought this was the best day ever.
My mother picked me up from school that day, which was very unusual. I remember getting into her car and asking what was going on. She said that something very bad had happened, and that we were going to my grandma’s.
My heart sank, but I really didn’t understand.
It was also my grandma’s birthday so maybe we were just going there to celebrate.
I honestly don’t know if this next part is something I made up over the years, or if it actually happened, but this is how I remember it.
We had to get gas. Mom was going on about how gas prices were going to skyrocket.
I remember the sky being an eerie shade of yellow and I remember the cars in line for gas being a million miles long.
I remember a single plane flying overhead and my mom pointing to it, saying that there shouldn’t be any planes in the sky today. I remember feeling sick with panic, fear, and confusion.
When we got to my grandma’s house, I remember everyone sitting in front of the TV, eyes glued to it as they played the two planes crashing into the big towers, over and over again. It seemed like every channel was playing the same thing, all night long.
Most of all, when I look back on that day, I remember silence.
It seems like after the teacher returned to the class, the whole day went into an eerie silent film in my mind.
I remember people’s mouths moving, and I think there was sound coming out, but all I can hear is a silence more fierce than anything I’ve ever experienced.
Even to this day, my heart starts racing when I think back on the feelings of fear and confusion I felt that day.
I lived in central Illinois [Peoria], and knew no one in New York or on any plane that day.
My loved ones were near, and I was too young to know what terrorism meant, but I knew that something unprecedented had occurred that day and I learned what a community of fear looked like.
Even now, I cannot imagine what it felt like to be closer to those attacks, to have loved ones, or myself intimately involved in the horror of the day, but I now can relate, just in a tiny needle point, fraction of a way to those faces that I see on TV, to those looks of terror and confusion and anxiety that I see on the faces of the children; those people that have had to make these attacks a part of life and a norm, and have experienced these acts of terrorism more than once in their life.
It’s definitely not a popular stance, but I think of America as being lucky.
We have experienced one day of insurmountable tragedy, and the loss of thousands of innocent lives, but this is really only a taste of what so many women, men, and children have to go through on a weekly and daily basis.
I am not trying to lessen the tragedy, I think that we should mourn the losses that we experience, but much more than that, we need to use that experience, and those pains to draw us closer to the people that have been through the same things, and continue to go through the same things.
We can utilize our fear, confusion, sadness, and devastation to empathize with others and come together as a community to uplift all nations that have experienced this form of terrorism and tragedy.
We can utilize September 11th as the national day of strength and as the global day of togetherness.
Terrorism impacts more than just America, it happens all across the world every single day.
We can utilize our fear, confusion, sadness, and devastation from that day to empathize with others and come together as a community to uplift all nations that have experienced this form of terrorism and tragedy.
John Stroud, Carbondale, Colorado [a former ICC Harbinger associate editor]:
I was editor and the main reporter for our small-town weekly, the Valley Journal in Carbondale.
My wife Tami works in financial investments and her boss called first thing that morning to suggest we turn on the TV.
We saw the plane hit the second tower and the immediate aftermath of the Pentagon and Trade Center mayhem.
I remember my first reaction was that the anti-World Trade Organization folks had taken it all too far. This wasn’t long after the Seattle WTO protests, and we had a group of local activists called Mountain Folks (MoFos) for Global Justice.
It didn’t even enter my mind at first that it was Islamic extremists. It was so beyond any act of terrorism we had ever seen.
Got into work and we set up a TV in our small office.
My day was spent getting local reaction, from patrons at a downtown bar called the Pour House to folks over at the American Legion Hall to high school students who were gathered in the library, watching the news and just absorbing what was happening.
It was all a haze for me until the day’s work was done and I realized the gravity of the situation.
I had many more days and weeks of following local angles, including a group of volunteer firefighters who traveled to NYC in support of the brotherhood.
Avis Moffatt, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada:
George Niemann described the horror I felt when my son [John Moffatt, 1962-63 drummer for The Tempests, Peoria, Illinois] phoned from Sherwood Park, Alberta in an absolutely horrified voice to tell me to turn on my TV quickly.
I can’t describe in words what my feelings were while witnessing the devastation in New York.
Just thinking about it now in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada fills me with horror.
It was so unbelievable and I am sure that the whole of Canada felt the same.
Pat Reynolds: England:
At that time, home was Ash Vale, Surrey, UK.
I left a meeting a four-five hour drive from home, and made a phone call to someone before setting off.
It was one of those ‘difficult’ calls.
But before I could broach a sensitive topic, they said ‘Have you seen the news?”
I said, no.
“Watch,” they said.
I drove home, listening to the radio on the BBC World Service.
It was late when I got home, and I went straight to bed.
My memories, therefore, do not contain visual images, just the sorrow and fear in voices.
They were voices of witnesses, and emergency responders, but also the voices of people around the world, some fearful that a husband or daughter would never be coming home, some fearful that the political situation would deteriorate, some fearful of hatred directed towards them, or their friends.
Kristel Taylor, Morton, Illinois:
I was on my way to work, oblivious…when I got there, my partner had a television on…at that point, our work day was done…on my drive home, I saw several people crying in their cars…I went to visit each of my children, then I rode my bike to our church for a prayer vigil.
David Cofield, LaFayette, Georgia:
I was teaching tenth grade AP World History at a high school in an Atlanta suburb.
On 9/11, I had a first-period class which went normally and must have finished at about 9:30.
Second period was my planning.
I had an appointment to talk with an advisor about the 403/b savings plan I was contributing to.
It was in the library and everything was calm; the word hadn’t gotten out yet, apparently.
I remember the advisor saying he thought the markets were likely to rise significantly over the next year or so, which has to be one of the all-time worst predictions.
Then I went back to my room and worked on my own for the rest of the period until 10:30, when third period started and I went to lunch.
In the cafeteria, a girl stopped me and said “Mr. Cofield, are we at war?”
I was completely confused and said “I don’t think so, why?” and she said “People are talking about a war.”
So I got my plate and went over to the faculty table where some teachers filled me in.
After I finished eating, I went back to the library where there were now TVs set up showing the news.
When fourth period started, I turned the TV in my room on and it stayed on the rest of the day.
My AP students were shocked like the rest of us, but I was proud of the questions and comments they made as they watched.
Driving back home after school, I had to stop for gas. I filled up and then went into the store to pay.
The counter clerk was watching the TV behind the register, and she took my card, ran it through the machine, and gave it and my receipt back without ever taking her eyes off the screen.
James W. Ware, Peoria, Illinois:.
I was just four at the time but I remember trying to understand what had my mother [Hope Ware] was so upset.
While she maintained her composure for my sake, I could still sense that there was something deeply amiss.
Over the following days, I became aware enough of the attacks to begin processing them in my own way.
This involved repeatedly knocking over wooden towers with a toy plane.
This was my way of trying to make sense of the tragic events of 9/11.
Hope Marston, Eugene, Oregon:
Sept, 11, 1973
You meant the first 9-11, right?
Well, on Sept. 11, 1973, the U.S.-backed coup (wildly supported by Nixon and Kissinger in order to help Anaconda Copper) overthrew a democratically elected president, Salvador Allende, leading to his tragic death.
More than 3,000 people died, some tortured, some imprisoned in the years-long aftermath.
Thanks, Kissinger. You’re a real bud to democracy.
So, on that date, I was sitting in Mike Foster’s journalism class, and someone undoubtedly streaked by, because streaking naked was our ‘70s college version of stuffing 100 people into a telephone booth (streaking being more organic and hygienic).
Foster, being a cool cat, barely registered a raised eyebrow before continuing with the lesson.
We had not yet heard the news of General Pinochet’s coup.
And we certainly had not heard about the thousands of people locked up in the soccer stadium, and tortured to death.
That came out later.
Sep 11, 2001:
Getting ready to protest G.W. Bush using 911 to take us into never-ending war, with his pink monkey ears and lying, smirky mouth.
Brenda Peculis, Columbia, Missouri:
On 9/11 I was in Bethesda, Maryland.
In my office at NIH since 7 a.m.
At 9:15, a postdoc popped into my office and told me something totally wacky.
I looked out the window of the lab across the hall (my office faced north).
To the south I saw smoke.
Lots of it.
By 10, we were told to vacate Gvmt Property ASAP.
Traffic was a mess, complete gridlock.
Luckily, I had biked that day and pedaled home the three miles on sidewalks.
The streets were solid with cars going nowhere.
Steve Nicholson, St. Paul, Minnesota:
We live less than two miles from the Twin Cities airport and I remember the quiet with no planes taking off or landing.
I also remember that a couple of weeks later, I picked up someone at the Duluth airport who recounted the military presence (pre-TSA) and the military-level frisking he received.
Stormy Lee Monday, Peoria, Illinois:
On this fateful day, 15 years ago, I owned Stormy Monday Painting & Design.
My two oldest sons and I were on a job 15 miles past town, out Knoxville Avenue.
We were staining a $300,000 barn renovation, turning it into a gorgeous home.
I was on scaffolding 20 feet in the air, working away.
It was a clear, blue sky, not a cloud anywhere.
The old farmer stepped out his front door and yelled up, “Stormy, I think you’ll want to come in here and see this.”
Jesse and Calen, my boys, both heard him, and the three of stepped inside his front door.
We watched as the first plane flew into one of the buildings at the World Trade Center.
Then we heard the entire air space over America was ordered grounded.
We were horrified.
Then there was an attack on the Pentagon.
We were in shock.
Then the second plane flew through the other building at the World Trade Center.
People in the upper floors were leaping to their deaths to keep from being burned alive.Then we heard passengers had overran hijackers and forced a plane to crash that was going to fly into the White House. Right after that, the first WTC building crumbled to the ground. We were all traumatized as this unfolded. None of us spoke. Finally, the second WTC building fell to the ground and all of us were overcome with emotions, fear, anger and confusion. I told the farmer that we were going home. This looked like World War III had just started and we needed to be home, to be with our families. I raced home to be with my then-wife and children, thinking a nuclear bomb could go off at any time. I got home and sat with my family for days and nights on end, glued to the TV, praying to God, for the families of all who had lost friends and family in these cowardly actions against our country. I love America. I will never forget 9/11, 2001. RIP to all who lost their lives on this horrific day.