9-11 Remembered: Readers recall where they were on the day that changed the U.S.A.

Published 8:58 pm Friday, September 10, 2021

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Sept. 1, 2001, is a day that changed the fabric of modern American society. Terrorists were able to launch an attack on American soil and destroyed the World Trade Center in New York City and damaged the heart of the American military, the Pentagon.

Troy Messenger Publisher Bobby Rice and Readers of The Messenger recalled where they were and what they were doing when they learned American had been attacked …

“On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, I was working for Gannett Newspapers, whose corporate offices were located in northern Virginia right across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C.  My condominium was close enough to my office that I could walk to work. As I was walking to work, I remember thinking that it was an absolutely beautiful day — brilliant blue skies and temperatures in the low 60’s. This, I remember thinking, was perfect football weather.

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“I hadn’t been at work long when someone told me that a plane had hit one of the towers of the World Trade Center. Like many others, I assumed it was some kind of small-engine plane. I continued working and then someone told me about the second plane. Several co-workers and myself  found a television in a conference room and watched in disbelief as events unfolded in New York City.

“I traveled often for my job and realized I probably needed to cancel the flight I had scheduled for the next day. I then walked to Gannett’s in-house travel office to see about rescheduling the flight. The travel office was on the same 18th floor of the Gannett building, which is actually one of the tallest office complexes in the Washington, D.C., area.

“The travel office faced the Pentagon which, as the crow flies, was one mile from our building. Arlington National Cemetery was thy only thing  between the Gannet corporate headquarters and the Pentagon, so we had an excellent view of one of the world’s largest and most famous buildings.

“I was talking to our travel rep — she couldn’t get through the system to cancel my flight because the system was overwhelmed —  when I heard a huge explosion outside. I immediately turned, looked out the window and saw a large fireball shooting straight into the air at the Pentagon.

“It never occurred to me that a commercial airliner had hit the building. I remember saying out loud, “Someone just shot a missile at the Pentagon.”

“Almost everyone in the office immediately started to scramble to exit our building, but I didn’t.  I just stood there watching. I couldn’t take my eyes off what I was seeing, and I’ll never forget it.”

Bobby Rice

Troy Messenger

“I always took my 3-year-old triplets to McDonald’s for Happy Meals after preschool on Wednesdays.  On 9-12, as we were driving there, one asked why the flags were down low.  I explained that some very bad men did a very bad thing that hurt a lot of people.  The flags were a way to honor the ones who were hurt.  As we turned into McDonald’s, I heard one of my children start saying the Pledge of Allegiance with his small hand over his heart.  Then another of my children begin reciting it, then the last, all with their tiny hands over their hearts.  When I reached the microphone to order, I was sobbing so hard I had to pull over and get out of line.  Those precious children had PB&J’s that day…and reinforced to me just how precious life is and how grateful I am to be an American.”

Dianna Lee

“I was working at the Shelby County Reporter in Columbiana as the Sports Editor and news writer. We had finished the layout of the newspaper, or as we say, “put the paper to bed,” the night before. I woke up that morning and saw it on the news and was completely devastated. We went back to work on re-designing the entire paper to include local stories of people who lost family members that day. I will never forget the feeling I had in my gut of pure agony for the families of the Americans who lost their lives that day, as well as what I can only describe as a hatred for the attackers. It was also amazing to see Americans come together as one in the aftermath of 9-11, something that is desperately in this country today.”

Eric Burkett

“Bay Medical Center, Panama City Florida. I was watching from the admin offices and remember the sinking feeling I felt that an attack had occurred on American soil. My heart still goes out to those lost on that day and the members of our armed forces that lost their lives in the days since then protecting our nation from the forces of evil. May we Never Forget.”

Rick Smith

“On September 11th, I was in kindergarten. My teacher was going over the alphabet when the principal walked in and whispered something to her. I will never forgot how her face went complete white, and she started crying. Some of the teachers brought a very small TV into the room and huddled around it. My class was playing with some toys on the ground. I will never forget looking up at the TV to see the second tower falling. Even as a five year old, I knew something really awful was happening. My mom came and got me soon after, and of course she was upset and crying also. She told me mean people were trying to hurt us, so we prayed in the car the whole ride home for all the people in the towers and for our country.”

Rebecca Taylor

“Working at the Charles Henderson Child Health Center Dental Clinic. I was performing a dental procedure on a child, hygienist had patients in their chairs cleaning the kids teeth. The air was filled with happy chatter. A helper from the front desk came in and said something terrible has happened, a plane has flown into a building.  I sent one of my hygienist home to get a small portable TV and we turned on the radio.  Now we heard that a second plane had hit a building and it was feared a terrorist act. We knew many were dead. I quickly finished the procedure on the little, sweet, innocent boy and took him to his oblivious father. I told him our country had been attacked and many had died. I encouraged him to immediately start praying for our nation. I remember him looking at me, grabbing his child’s hand and saying, “Come on boy, we got to go!”  He took the child and left. I quickly dismissed our other patients and we all crowded around the small TV with an 10 inch screen.  No one said much we were all in shock. Quickly after that, all employees, patients and parents who wanted to, held hands in a big circle and prayed collectively for our nation. There was not a dry eye to be seen.”

Amy Flowers

“I had just started my Freshman year at Troy University and was at work at the University when the first plane hit. We were watching live as the second plane crashed into the World Trade Center. I will never forget the feeling I had watching the footage or the emotions that followed.”

April Johnson

“I was in the Mrs. Elliott’s sixth grade history class when she received a phone call to turn on the TV. She plugged her TV up and we saw the first tower in flames. I can remember sitting at my desk watching the Today Show. Several minutes later we saw a plane crash into the second tower. Time stood still the rest of the day. I can remember going home and my mom telling me that my dad flew home from JFK airport the day before.”

Anna Cargile

“In the Air Force in Alaska. I was on my way to work and heard it on the radio. I was horrified when they announced it was deliberate.”

Robyn Wilson

“I was in the Chevron Refinery at Pascagoula, Miss.  I was out in the refinery when an alarm went off and we all had to go back to our muster points for an emergency.  We were then told of the plane crashing into the World Trade Center.  The refinery was told that it could be a potential target, so all non-essential personnel and contractors were sent home.  I was a contractor in charge of water treatment at the facility so I was sent home.  I remember meeting my wife at my parents house and watching the images of the planes going into the World Trade Centers and then the chaos of the Towers when they fell.  It truly was an event that will be forever etched in my mind.”

Jason French

“I was in the seventh grade at Charles Henderson Middle School, in Mrs. Gibson’s math class.  Right before the class started, you could hear teachers and students sort of murmuring in the hallways about something that happened, but I didn’t know what was going on or how bad the situation was.  While we were in Mrs. Gibson’s class, she wound up turning on the TV in the room to the news, and I remember seeing one of the towers with smoke billowing out.  Mrs. Gibson made a comment to the class that this was going to be a day we’ll remember in history.  She wasn’t wrong.”

Keith Reeder

“I was teaching a class of eighth graders when my door flew open and the teacher next door yelled “Turn on the TV!”  The children and I watched as the drama unfolded before our eyes.  We saw the second tower fall, and the questions began.  So many questions that I did not have answers to give them.  I had to explain why we could not “just nuke the whole country over there” and how that would make us as bad as them for killing innocent people.  I remember answering questions all day long for children that wanted to know but were unable to grasp the evilness of someone that would kill innocents.  It was a very long day.  I tried to be a calm answerer, but I was as angry and stunned as they were!”

Kay Sanders

“I was a sophomore in high school. I took something to the campus main office and when I got back to the classroom, the TV was on. We watched the news in every class for the rest of the day.”

Lauren Chandler

“I was in second grade at Troy Elementary school. Sitting in Yolanda Coleman’s class. I remember her turning the TV on and watching the towers get hit. Knowing a plane going in a building wasn’t good. I will always remember sitting in that class room and watching that day unfold.”

Joseph LeVeque

“I was sitting in my desk in Gywn Huggin’s classroom at CHHS and Marna Barnett came into the classroom, telling us to turn on the television. The TV was turned on after the first tower was hit which means we saw the second plane hit in real time.”

Rachel Garrett