Sunday, September 11, 2011
That day: Readers share reflections on Sept. 11
- Ten years later: Delve into readers' recollections of that day.
- Watch video of one man's journey to the Army during wartime.
- Read about a couple's struggle to find closure after their firefighter son's death.
- And explore the best 9/11 and anniversary stories from The Roanoke Times and other news sources, plus more.
The day started as it usually did. I was preparing to teach 90 seventh-graders.
While we were working, someone came by and said, "Turn on the television, a plane just hit a building in New York City." While my student teacher, Emily, and I watched, the second plane hit the other tower. We cried and prayed and wished school would close, but there was no suggestion of that here in Virginia.
We were informed to carry on as usual and to not tell our students what had occurred. I was glad it was a test day, so I didn't have to speak much to the students. Emily sat at my desk at the front of the room. She tilted my computer screen so I could see current information on the screen as I sat nearby monitoring the room while students took their tests.
Emily and I would look at each other, teary eyed, as we watched and read information. Saving face in front of students was tough, but the school felt that the parents should tell their children of these events.
Emily now teaches in a nearby county. It was a blessing to have her with me that day.
— Sherri Shupe, Salem
Faye Nova, Roanoke
Students in my classroom at William Fleming High School made small talk as the morning announcements were read and struggled to stay quiet during the moment of silence. When prompted, they slowly rose for the Pledge of Allegiance and stood with hands in pockets or leaning against the wall or their desks as I, alone, recited the pledge with one eye on the flag and the other on them.
As a special education teacher, I had grown to expect this as a typical way to start the day. At the time we thought the only thing different about this Tuesday was that school pictures were being taken. While waiting in line for the pictures, we could hear people talking about some planes and New York City. It was all quite vague and no one seemed to really know what had happened and, at the time, I was more concerned with a student or two slipping off while we waited than what was happening on the news.
Once we got back into the classroom, the aide who worked with me hooked up a television. My students, ninth-to 12th-grade boys, gasped audibly as they saw the coverage. When the towers fell, many asked to call their parents and go home. Most stayed and numbly made it through the day, though it was a surreal and oddly quiet campus.
On Sept. 12, students in my class again made small talk as the morning announcements were read and struggled to stay quiet during the moment of silence. However, when asked to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance, I watched in awe as each of these students rose to their feet without prompting and stood ramrod straight with their hands over their hearts as they recited the pledge with both clarity and purpose. When it ended they sat down and looked at me — not with questions or fear, but with pride. I nodded at them, they all nodded back at me, and that was that.
The change didn’t last long. As the week progressed their old habits (and mine) resurfaced, but for those few minutes on that one day they knew a patriotism that could not be taught in any classroom.
— Faye Nova, Roanoke
I was in ninth grade world history and we all watched the news as it happened from the second building on. What sticks out the most is the outpouring of love and caring from everyone. As ninth-graders, we all got together and prayed for everyone, and looking back that stands out to me because you don't see many young people doing that. I am now 24. I am a proud American, and I can say I have a special place in my heart for all those who were taken away because of this tragedy. I have The Roanoke Times from the days after, my own piece of history to share with many more generations. God Bless America!
— Bailee Dukeshire, Smith Mountain Lake
I was participating in a series of classes at Wesley United Methodist Church in Bethlehem, Pa. I remember the church secretary coming in and saying that something had happened, that a plane had crashed into one of the towers. After a few minutes, noticing that none of the class could focus anymore, he let us leave. I walked outside and was able to reach my husband on the phone. His words: "Holly, the Twin Towers are gone." I was so stunned that my knees almost gave out.
I am crying as I write this even today. Even 10 years later, the emotions it brings up in me are overwhelming. Last year, I found myself explaining the event to our 6-year-old son. I took him to the computer and showed him video of it. I told him about the evil people behind what happened. And I cried some more.
— Holly Moore, Radford
Wayne Miesen, Roanoke
My life changed significantly because of the attack.
At 10 p.m. on Sept. 11, I received a phone call advising that my reserve unit was being mobilized. I left the next morning for Fort Eustis, Va.
I arrived with my unit in New York City 36 hours after the attack. Seeing the World Trade Center site still burning was a stunning and terrible sight that I will never forget. The site looked like a volcano, billowing smoke and debris into the air.
Later, I could smell the stench even from the other side of the Hudson River where my unit provided maritime security for the next two months. It protected the marina next to the World Trade Center and a fuel depot across the river, keeping away spectators and guarding against terrorists. As a master chief petty officer, most of my administrative duty was from a pier in Bayonne, N.J. We stayed in tents on Staten Island.
People were still scared, not knowing if another plane would drop out of the sky. They were glad to see us. The police were glad. The firemen were glad. People were saying, “Thank God you guys are here.” Women and kids would walk up and say, “Thank you for coming.”
— Wayne Miesen, Roanoke
I had arranged a trip to Scotland for my wife and me and four other couples. After some touring on Sept. 11, we arrived at our small hotel on the obscure regions of Loch Lomand about 5:15 p.m. local time. We were greeted by everyone wanting to know what was happening in New York. Naturally, we had no clue what they were talking about. We went in and saw their television pictures of the planes hitting the towers.
We knew that returning to the United States was out of the question, so we registered and ordered dinner. You can't believe how we were treated; everyone wanted to help us. The lady in charge of the hotel wanted to know the email addresses of all our children - and by the time we came down for breakfast, she had contacted all of our children, or their siblings, who told us they were all safe. This lady had stayed up almost all night to accomplish this.
On Sept. 14 we caught a ferry to Iona. As we arrived, people told us to rush down to Iona Abbey for the three-minute observance for those killed. We sat in the old stone church in silence - the back entrance was open and somewhere in the distance a single bagpipe player played "Amazing Grace."
It has to be the most moving performance in my life.
— Gordon James, Clifton Forge
Cindee Hill, Roanoke
An image that haunted me was a stark, distressing photograph of a single shoe. The shoe lay upright, slightly cocked, floating in a bed of thick dust and debris. It was in a frame of pandemonium.
It was part of the poignant imagery capturing the devastation of the Sept. 11 attacks on our country. Through the ash, it appeared to be a woman’s shoe, black with a silver side buckle. I thought of the image of the shoe every morning as I was dressed and headed for work.
I do not know why but I wondered where she bought them, why she chose them, what she was wearing with them, and how many pairs of other shoes lay still in her closet.
I wanted to see her, meet her, and speak to her. She became every woman. She became any woman. However, the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, she was a certain woman who put those shoes on her feet.
Putting my shoes on in the morning became anything but an ordinary act.
The image of the shoe began to represent strength, courage, resilience, guts, and staying power, because there were forces in the world that wanted to stun us, immobilize us, and frighten us. It represented liberty and freedom of movement.
Our lives are filled with so many ordinary days. We are secretaries, nurses, cashiers, servers, dispatchers, CEOs, travel agents, presidents, mailroom clerks, and teachers. More importantly, we are moms, daughters, wives, confidants, and friends. We put on our shoes in the morning, and we walk through the simple ordinary tasks in our lives.
Then an extraordinary day comes along.
Ten years later, I can recall the image clearly. In remembering, I acknowledge her deep sacrifice and I know the world is less of a place without her in it. I also thank God for the gift of a new day, and I pray that God will bless the super ordinary women of our country.
— Cindee Hill, Roanoke
I left Vernal, Utah, in a rental car that morning, driving north over the mountains to Yellowstone National Park. This was part of my grand tour of the West. I slowly climbed steep grades until, near the summit, I arrived at a great mountain meadow with hundreds of sheep grazing. A rancher on horseback, dog and rifle at the ready, was watching over them. What a tranquil scene; what a beautiful day.
I thought that I'd check the weather forecast on the radio, but when I turned it on, I heard an announcer cry, "The tower is falling!" I listened in disbelief. I got concerned for my son Andy, who worked just a long block from the World Trade Center. I found myself so deep in wilderness that I had to drive another 50 miles to reach a phone.
I found that, yes, he was safe. Early that morning, he had taken the train to the World Trade Center station, walked up to ground level, and then to work past historic St. Paul's church. That railroad station was later reduced to rubble when the towers fell.
Andy is in information technology for his global company, so he volunteered to remain at work as long as possible, alerting their worldwide offices and securing computer data. In the afternoon, he, along with thousands of others, walked through ankle-deep debris to find other transportation, food or lodging.
Two weeks later, my son was driving to a memorial service being held for a man killed in one of the towers. On the way, a limousine ran a stop sign and struck his car right in the driver's door, totalling the vehicle. He escaped without injury. Andy rented a vehicle, drove on to pick up a friend and attended the memorial service.
We are grateful that my son escaped death or serious injury twice in the span of a few days, even as we remember those who were not so fortunate.
— Tom Sendall, Bedford
I was in New York on Sept. 11, 2001, beginning my additional job as music director and conductor of the Long Island Philharmonic. It took me two days to get off the island and back to my beloved wife Leah, thanks to an understanding and helpful NYC policeman who let me join a military convoy across the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. The buildings around the World Trade Center site were still burning and falling, and the shock and sense of helplessness we were feeling was still palpable.
Our 70-piece symphony orchestra came together several weeks later to perform a memorial concert on Long Island with the LI Philharmonic and violin virtuoso Midori. For many in the audience who had lost family members and friends, this concert was the first time that they had allowed themselves to come to a significant public gathering other than a funeral.
All fire and rescue personnel and their families were invited free to the concert. The healing power of the music was palpable that night.
We all felt the need to come together to show our civilization at its best - we were deeply listening, communicating, playing sounds of hope and timeless beauty. Where words failed, the music spoke.
— David Wiley - Director, Roanoke Symphony
At the time of the terrorist attacks I was an executive vice president for Hensel Phelps Construction Co. One of our larger customers was the Department of Defense Pentagon Renovation team. We were awarded a contract for the renovation of the Pentagon Wedges 2-5 and were scheduled to take possession of Wedge 2 on the afternoon of Sept. 11, 2001.
At 10 a.m., I was working in our Chantilly, Va., headquarters and watching the news of the World Trade Center attack when I received a call from my operations manager at the Pentagon who advised me that an aircraft crashed into the west side of the Pentagon. I asked if all our people were accounted for and at that time all but four had safely made it out. I was later comforted to hear that all our employees were safe.
On Sept. 14, 2001, Hensel Phelps Construction Co. entered into a 14-year contract with the Pentagon Renovation Office for the complete design and construction of Wedges 2-5 and a support directive to assist with the reconstruction of the damaged portion. We were also asked to accelerate the entire program completion by four years and immediately started working 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, and did so until Nov. 5, 2005. I'm proud to have been part of one of the most demanding projects of my 34-year career with Hensel.
Numerous people have asked over the years what it was like to be a member of the Pentagon renovation effort. I've often said that the attacks were in some ways similar to Pearl Harbor for my generation. I know it has changed the way I look at the world and maybe even helped accelerate my decision to retire, but watching our country pull together after 9/11/01 leaves me with the confidence that when threatened as a country, we will pull together.
— Robert Daniels, Penhook
One of my most vivid memories did not come until a month after Sept. 11.
I was employed by Atlantic Mutual Companies in Salem, the insurers for some of the businesses located in the Twin Towers. After the government waiting period for missing persons, the company started to receive claims from companies that had lost employees.
I cannot begin to express the painful grief of the callers as they gave me personal detailed information for each employee lost or missing from their company. Some would call and become so emotional that they would have to hang up and call back later.
These workers were not only employees, but virtually family that had worked faithfully for many years. It was very difficult to remain composed and professional while accepting these claims. Sometimes after the call, I would have to unplug from the call queue and just take a moment to allow the pent-up tears to flow. I may not have known these people, but we shared a sense of great loss in the wake of 9/11.
— Stacey Jones, Henry
I saw the sunrise that beautiful late summer morning from 35,000 feet through a picture window, courtesy of a Boeing 727. I was en route from Memphis to Roanoke in command of a FedEx flight. It was stunningly clear that morning over far southwest Virginia as the sun came up.
After the attacks, I had two tense days of constantly shifting plans and a lot of confusion before flights were allowed back in the air in a very carefully controlled manner. Thursday night, I flew back to Memphis and we, along with UPS, were among the first airline flights back in the air. It was eerie. There was very little radio traffic, a few lights above us which were military fighters maintaining watch that were in contact with the control center but were not on our frequency. Very quiet. Eerie. Sad.
— John Snidow, Hardy
It was a clear day. I happened to look out my office window in suburban New York, longing to be outside on that sunny morning. (I was working at Atlas Air in Purchase, N.Y., at the time.) The familiar New York City skyline was beckoning. But something wasn't quite right. Smoke was coming from one of the towers. "The Trade Center is on fire!" I yelled to nearby co-workers. We streamed to a corner office to get a better look. Then — wham! — we saw more flames erupting — the second plane smashing in.
This was going to be a different day — not just one of those remember-where-you-were-when-it-happened kind of day. I mean a you'll-never-be-the-same-again kind of day.
Soon curiosity and concern gave way to shock and horror — not just about what was happening. But wondering whether co-workers with spouses and family working in the Trade Center would ever see their loved ones again.
— Thomas Becher, Roanoke
My nephew, Andy, worked in the World Trade Center. He was a lawyer. I was sitting in front of my television set when the news said that the planes had crashed into the building. I thought, "Andy is in that building." I was very upset. I called his mother. She told me he was on a business trip to Texas.
— Helen Workman, Roanoke
Josh Mattox, Roanoke
I was actually in the World Trade Center on 9/11. Working on the 61st floor. Standing on the 54th floor when the plane hit the building. I escaped the south tower 5 minutes before it collapsed.
I could write pages about the things I learned that day. I was a young man, 22, just out of college. My dreams about life were focused on financial success — traveling and working in the big city was a huge deal to me.
The main lesson I learned from my incredible 9/11 experience has absolutely nothing to do about business or capitalism, but everything to do about TODAY. Today is the day to tell mom and dad how appreciative you are for the love and sacrifice they have given you. Today is the day to say I’m sorry, you were right, or thank you. Today is the day to let the people around you know how you feel. Today is the day to say I love you each time you leave your family or loved one. You see — tomorrow may not be available.
One other very important lesson I took away from 9/11 is to avoid working or staying in buildings over 25 stories.
— Josh Mattox, Roanoke
In the early morning of Sept. 9, 2001, my husband and I were returning from a cruise to Nova Scotia. I had decided to rise early and get some pictures of the Statue of Liberty as we entered New York harbor, but when I went up to the top deck, it was still too dark to get a good photo as we passed the statue. I decided to enjoy the view and take some photos of the New York City skyline as it grew lighter and came into view.
When we returned to Roanoke, I left my roll of film at CVS to be developed. Later that week, after the horrific events of Sept. 11, I went to pick up the photos. When I presented my receipt, the clerk gave me an odd look.
She asked if I realized what was on that roll of film. I had already suspected that there might have been a snapshot or two of the World Trade Center. As she was developing these pictures, the clerk said she saw the twin towers, as they had looked two days before 9/11. There was a beautiful white gull in the shot, gliding along in the distance.
She brought out the photographs and even gave me an enlargement she had printed. The group I was a part of were mostly seniors holding reservations for the new Glebe community, then under construction in Daleville. When these people found out that I had these pictures of the World Trade Center, everyone asked for a copy.
We had been so close to this terrible tragedy, and I still have the framed photograph to remind us of our cruise by this landmark just two days before it was no longer there.
— Katherine Morris, Daleville
I was in my office when I heard a scream that we were under attack
I worked for a nursing facility and they asked if any of us wanted to go home. We said no — we had to take care of our patients. A TV was rolled into our office, and we listened to the news. We all were just astonished.
That night as I lay in my bed, I thought, "We didn't run, we didn't hide. We faced what happened and went on."
— Sandra Beard, Roanoke
My brother worked in the second tower of the World Trade Center for a bank on the 82nd floor I believe.
That morning his son had forgotten to ask him to fill out paperwork so that he could participate in football, so he was distracted for a bit with that. Then his wife had a personnel issue at work that she wanted to discuss with him. So, he was out the door a little later than usual. Then when he got to the train station, there was a logging truck blocking the entrance to the station — another delay.
He was very irritated at the time. As he headed into the city, they stopped the subway and let the passengers out due to smoke in the subway. He said it wasn't that unusual for that to happen, so they didn't really think much about it.
As he walked out onto the street, he saw the second tower get hit. He took off running and ran as long and hard as he could. He said it felt like things were going to fall on him, so he was trying to get away.
Cellphones weren't working, but hours later he finally found a pay phone and waited in a long line to call his wife. His older children were hearing in school what was happening, so it was very scary for them.
We got notification here in Virginia at about 3 in the afternoon. We were elated, of course. We had heard it might take much longer even in the best of circumstances.
My brother lost friends and co-workers and his wife lost a family member in the attack. Everyone was affected in some way. Recovery from that experience is a long road, and I don't think you ever recover really. We are just so fortunate and blessed that he was late.
— Wendy Kelley, Vinton
I walked in to a grocery store the morning of 9/11. Several people were watching a TV mounted on the wall. All I could think of was my son, who worked for IBM, had a meeting there that morning. He had flown in from Raleigh, N.C., where he lived, to attend a meeting.
I immediately tried to reach him on his cellphone and it continued to be busy. With a sick feeling in my stomach, I just knew he had been killed. I drove home terrified. My husband met me at the door and said,"Have you seen the news?" We kept trying to reach him by phone. About two hours later the phone rang and it was my son. I was crying and so was he. What we did not know was the meeting had been canceled and he flew to Los Angeles the night before.
The people he worked with were all killed. It was just not his time to die. I think how thankful his father and I were that he was spared but grieve for his co-workers and friends that did die. It is something you never forget.
— Carol Golladay, Salem
In the way that my parents' generation remembers where they were the day John F. Kennedy was shot, my generation remembers our experiences on Sept. 11. We all know what it was like to be a child and feel the terror of this news and wonder if they were going to come for you.
On the evening of Sept. 11, 2001, my mom told me that she needed to talk to me about something important. I don't recall what she said, exactly; I only remember staring at my brightly painted purple wall in disbelief. This didn't make sense. This couldn't be true. My world was supposed to be safe and friendly. I had no way to process this.
So I didn't. For a few weeks, I was in denial, refusing to talk about the tragedies of 9/11.Whenever it was reported on the news, I left the room. I wouldn't talk about it, think about it, listen to anything about it. It couldn't be real.
Even at that age, though, my Christian faith and the faith and encouragement of my family helped me deal with my fears.
As time went by, I accepted what had happened and was able to talk about it. But the scars remained. The sound of an airplane flying overhead terrified me for months afterward. The nighttime was the worst. Lying in bed, I would try to calculate the distance between Roanoke and Washington, D.C., wondering if I was safe here. I would hear a plane fly over and think, heart pounding,"What if they crash the plane into my house? What if they drop a bomb? What if ..."
Last year, as the tutor of a 9-year-old girl, I suddenly realized that she wasn't even born when 9/11 happened! The day after bin Laden was found, she asked me, wide-eyed, "Did you hear about the man who died in Pakistan?" When I told her that I had, she shuddered, scrunching up in her chair, and said, "I heard that some people might try to hurt us because of it." In her eyes, I saw myself all over again, 9 years old and afraid of the airplanes.
— Rachael Sloan, Bridgewater College and Roanoke
Vicki Watson Schoop, Iron Gate
I worked at the Pentagon in 2001. A dentist appointment delayed my arrival at the office on Sept. 11. I pulled into the Pentagon’s south parking lot about 9:30 a.m., started walking into the building and that’s when my life changed forever.
The day’s events are etched in my mind, and the images keep playing over and over. I keep hitting rewind, seeing the images being played out. I don’t know what I am looking for. I could not have stopped that plane.
As I trekked into the building, I heard the noise of engines, loud and revved up, that made me look to my left. I stared in horror as a silver plane with red painted on its sides, so low to the ground, headed toward the building. I watched as the nose of the plane passed behind the building, engulfed in fire, flames wrapping the plane. Then the nose hit the ground, an explosion, the ground shook, smoke, and the entire plane disappeared, more smoke, more explosions.
For a few seconds, I walked in circles, stunned, shocked, not knowing what to do next. I pulled out my cellphone and called 911 and told the voice who answered that a plane had just crashed at the Pentagon. I could tell he had just heard the news as well. He sounded frantic. From the angle of the plane’s descent I could not say for certain if the plane crashed into the ground or the building. I figured out that the smoke was coming from the four and five corridors and wanted to get into the building to see if my co-workers were OK, but realized that I would not be let back into the building.
There was so much smoke and more explosions. I looked at the exits and saw that people were being evacuated. They were leaving the building, orderly, not screaming – walking out of the building into the parking lot, wondering what was going on. I watched the faces of the people coming out of the building, faces of people I work with daily, looking dumbstruck, curious, not wanting to admit what was happening to their placid lives, wondering what was still to come.
In 2009, I retired from the Department of the Army and we moved to Alleghany County. Here we hope to finally find some semblance of peace.
— Vicki Watson Schoop, Iron Gate
I was at work that morning when the first plane hit the twin towers. In the hours that followed, an overwhelming sense of uneasiness developed as the towers fell, attacks on the Pentagon ensued and other planes were hijacked. Our country was under assault but no one knew by whom.
At this point, survival mode began to set in. Should I go home? Stay put? Wait for official instructions? I wondered why our kids had not yet been sent home from school. Should I pick them up? Would there be a lockdown?
Like everyone else that evening I remained glued to the news coverage on the Internet as the unthinkable became reality. The Roanoke Times published a special late edition.
I remember going out that night and noticing perhaps for the first time in my life a sky devoid of aircraft lights. All flights had been grounded.
Sadly, this was not the worst of it. In the months and years that followed I developed an even greater uneasiness as I watched fellow patriotic Americans all too quickly giving up their civil liberties for a vague promise of safety.
Now, a whole decade later, I no longer pay attention to the Department of Homeland Security's color-coded threat advisory system. I'm not even frightened of the chance of future terrorist attacks. Rather, I'm frightened of the American police state we're so graciously accepting as the norm. I'm frightened of how we've become a mindless herd of unquestioning sheeple. And I'm especially frightened that those who had the most to gain from attacking our country may not have been our supposed enemy after all.
— Todd Jennings, Dugspur
In the aftermath of 9/11, I created several works of art with the number of lives lost as the subject matter. The Roanoke Times came out and did an article on one of them, "Remember Me." Since the quilt was finished, "Remember Me" has hung in exhibits in Roanoke, Ferrum, Houston, Chicago and the Netherlands.
Another piece, "Falling Leaves, Fallen Lives" hung in Portland and in the New England Quilt Museum.
Every person lost has their name represented on the Pentagon-shaped "Remember Me." The papers fluttering in the air was the inspiration for the design. While it was on exhibit, dozens of people found their loved one's name. Finding the name is very simple, and takes about 30 seconds to find. I can't tell you how many tears have been shed when family members find the name strip they're looking for. The reaction is nearly always the same. They hold the strip, they pat it, they tell me stories about the person represented. Some still carry pictures with them. I listen carefully to each and every story. I document them, and when names are officially added to the lists, strips are added to "Remember Me."
Thus, on Remember Me, each person lost that day is remembered. And, after all, isn't being remembered all anyone wants?
— Carol Mesimer, Boones Mill
My husband's daughter works at the Pentagon. As news of the crash emerged during the day, he tried to contact her in every way we knew how. No answer. Her sister hadn't heard anything. Charlie, the stoic, went about his volunteer work at the art museum. About 7 p.m. the phone rang and Cindy was safe! Stoic no more — sobs of relief.
— Yvonne Olson, Hardy
My husband and I were in NYC that day. We were at a medical meeting, and when the towers went down the moderator asked if anyone would like to go downtown to help. Seven of us volunteered.
They put us on a bus with a police escort, and we sped down to the twin towers area. This was for us, former New Yorkers, a surreal experience given the usual gridlock that we were used to.
Once downtown, we found the school to which we had been directed. Hospitals, pharmacies and stores had donated piles of equipment to treat wounds, and staff from nearby emergency rooms and operating rooms were assembled. We probably could have performed open-heart surgery in that gym and fed half of Manhattan with food.
Unfortunately, not one person was brought to us. It became apparent after awhile that one either made it out of the towers or did not. There were no injuries to treat or wounds to dress.
Finally, we took water bottles out into the street and washed out the eyes of the firefighters. There was plaster everywhere and their eyes were caked with it. In a gesture I found so poignant, they thanked us for doing that, when they had rushed into the falling buildings with such bravery. It was a sad day for us personally also, as we had been married at the twin towers in 1978. No one will ever forget that day and neither will we.
— Susan Hill, Roanoke
Sept. 11 was a bad day for me. I was sitting at LewisGale hospital watching it on TV. I was waiting to go the operating room to get cancer out of my breast. This 9/11 is 10 years of survival — free of cancer. That day I thought my world was to end like those ones that we lost in the great land.
— Loretta Sink, Roanoke
I left Roanoke September 10, 2001, as the tour director on bus with a group of passengers on our way to Branson, Mo. We were unaware of the attack until we made a morning rest stop on Tuesday. We discovered people in a panic mode - crying and wondering what else was about to happen.
As we continued to Branson, we saw long lines at service stations and businesses that had closed early. We also saw American flags hoisted high and "God Bless America" signs prominently displayed. On Friday, a national time of prayer, we were at the Arch in St. Louis. A church nearby was overflowing with people. Patriotism and trust in God was very evident.
Ten years latter many of us have put away our flags, taken down our "God Bless America" signs, and seldom attend a church service. How quickly we forget.
— Lois Peterson, Roanoke
Vivid indeed describes the archive we each carry from that day. Equally certain is that there are memories particular to each of us. About noon I was privileged to observe a massive gathering of Virginia Tech students as they descended on a previously scheduled Red Cross Bloodmobile. I remember this sea of them waiting outside for hours wanting so much to help. Uncharacteristically there was first a murmuring sound as they sat in clusters exchanging concerns and reasoning together.
I took comfort from their presence and their resolve and remember them and that valiant Red Cross crew with much gratitude.
— Nan Dowdy, Blacksburg
My wife was seriously ill, and in fact, passed away that December, but at that time was being treated at the Mayo Clinic and had an appointment later in the day. We left for the clinic about noon, and we approached a busy intersection of two main thoroughfares; we could hear horns blowing. We got closer. We saw an Army veteran on the corner, wearing the old-style olive fatigues of an earlier era. With a tall pole, he was waving a huge American flag that must have been at least 8 feet by 10 feet. As drivers saw it, they cheered, pumped their fists and blew their horns.
For the first time that day, my spirits began to lift. This was the true heart and soul of America, rallying around the flag. I knew then that once again our great nation would unite and prevail.
— Thomas Stone Jr., Roanoke