FAIRBANKS - I was here in Fairbanks on 11 Sept. 2001. On that day, I was listening to NPR as I prepared breakfast and heard what I assumed to be a book review. Planes flying into the World Trade Center just sounded too unreal to be anything else, especially first thing in the morning. It slowly dawned on me that NPR didn’t normally do book reviews at that time so I turned the television on. I was just in time to see footage of one of the towers falling. I am originally from upstate New York (about 60 miles north-west of the city) so I just stood there dumbfounded.
And then I thought of Lynne. She was my 22 year old cousin who had recently landed a starting position at Cantor Fitzgerald. Their offices were located on two floors in Tower 1. I grabbed my phone and tried to get through to the east coast but couldn’t. The phone lines were jammed and cell phone communications didn’t work either. It wouldn’t be until much later in the day that I managed to get hold of my mother. No one had heard from Lynne. I honestly don’t remember much else about that day or those immediately following. I’ve been told that I was most likely in shock.
I flew back to New York in early October 2001 and went down to the city with relatives. From Hoboken Station, I remember looking out across the Hudson to the wreckage. It was still smoldering. It had become apparent that no one from the Cantor Fitzgerald offices got out of the building that day. In 2005, near the close of the forensic examinations, New York City police came to my aunt and uncle’s house with a tiny box of bone fragments that had been identified as belonging to Lynne.
It’s now 10 years later. Otherwise well-meaning people often think that I should be over the event and have even told me So. But the images of the towers falling has been seared onto my brain and I still can’t look at pictures or footage of the Twin Towers without feeling Ill. It also doesn’t help that our nation is still engaged in a war that came about in part because of the events of September 11. And my cousin is gone. My thoughts will be with my family as they always are on that day and I plan on trying not to become too depressed. Lynne would have wanted me to be happy, so I’ll try.
On Sept. 11, 2001, I got up at 5 a.m., turned on the radio and started getting ready for work. The report of a plane hitting the North Tower was surreal. I was in the shower when I heard that another plane hit the South Tower. I turned on the TV. The images focused my mind on one thought… We are under attack. A half hour later, a third plane hit the Pentagon. Soon after, the South Tower begins to collapse, United Airlines Flight 93 crashed and the North Tower began to collapse.
At the time, I was a firefighter for Alaska Fire Service. I left for work and got through the gate at Fort Wainwright, just before the base was locked down.
Within a couple of days, several of the National Incident Management Teams that work on largest and most serious wildland fires were assigned to assist with recovery efforts in New York. It wasn’t for several more weeks that the Alaska Incident Management Team discovered that they, too, were going to be assigned in New York City.
I will never forget the expression on the faces of the 33 Alaska team members after flying into Newark and taking a coach that dumped out in front of the Times Square Hilton at 11 o’clock at night. This is where we would live for the next 30-plus days.
Over the next couple of days we found ourselves split into two missions. The Fire Department New York had never asked anyone for help because in their entire history they never had an incident last longer than a few days. Things were different now. It is not uncommon for wildland firefighters have incidents that last for months. The first part was helping the FDNY and other agencies work through the planning process. The second part of the team’s mission was to supply multiple caches with tools and supplies to the World Trade Center site. At the time, this was reverently referred to as the “the pile”.
I am proud of the work we did. This assignment changed the lives of every team member. None of us are the same because of this assignment, but our sacrifice was nonexistent compared to those who were there on Sept. 11 and lived to talk about it. Nearly all of the FDNY firefighters that we worked with had lost friends or family or both. Many later suffered serious health problem related to their time at the pile and were forced into disability.
This summer, after 32 years as a firefighter, I left Alaska for an emergency management job in Washington, D.C. Last week we had an earthquake followed by a hurricane. The events of Sept. 11 were among my life experiences that helped prepare me for what I do.
Former Fairbanks resident now in Washington, D.C.
I was in Maryland and I heard a big thud when the Pentagon got hit. I was assistant manager for a retail store, and all my employees were military spouses (Air Force). I was an Army wife then. I had to send my girls home, because they were going to shut down Andrews AFB. I had lived off post in Mechanicsville with my family. My father was at the Pentagon working. Thank goodness my father was all right and they were all sent home, but we sure were devastated when we saw the news on the television. Then to find out that my friend, Christine Snyder (Hawaii), was on Flight 93 that went down in Pennsylvania. It was way too tragic for my family, and my father being a retired Navy man was not pleased at all. He wanted revenge as we all did. May they all be forever remembered!
The sun had not even risen when I was awoken by my 5-year-old daughter. At the time my family of seven was stationed at Fort Huachuca, Ariz., where my husband taught at UAV to those new to the MOS in the U.S. Army. We were living on base so our experience was vastly different then many. My husband was at PT and my daughter and I were the only ones awake. CNN is the first channel that flipped on when I went to turn on cartoons to soothe my daughter and we ended up instead seeing the second plane hit live.
The whole base, due to the fact it is a MI school, was shut down. It was like living during a post-apocalyptic time. Garbage blew down silent streets, MPs drove around the neighborhood announcing from their bullhorns to stay indoors and not make any phone calls unless it was an emergency. We did not send our kids to school, but many did only to have the DoD schools shut down.
We ended up with several extra kids due to their parents being locked off base for over three days. Since we lived on post, especially since we lived on this post, we had to be so careful of what we said on the land lines. More then a handful of times when myself and other wives were discussing this during the months following, we ended up having visits because we used keywords that were triggers. More then once we were reminded what not to say.
It was like living in a nightmare for everyone.
Thinking back on it, I was in shock, my poor 5-year-old was a complete mess. I was worried what would happen to my husband and our friends and was terrified for my East coast friends and members of the NYPD and FDNY that I knew. I was horrified, very angry, completely devastated for the victims. I was also very angry at the administration in Washington, D.C., disgusted about how they let things get that far. I felt powerless.
Fairbanks resident for eight years.
I will never forget Sept. 11, 2001. I was in the Army and on my way to physical training from my off-post housing. As I passed the front gate at Fort Wainwright, I got a call from my mom in Seattle asking if I knew what was going on. I had no idea. As I pulled into the Brigade Headquarters where I worked, it seemed that nobody knew what was truly happening. After walking into the commander’s office, I noticed a group of people around a TV. The second plane had just hit and it was now clear that the first one was not some terrible accident. I immediately implemented our defense procedures and put us in alert. I blocked the roads and entrances around the headquarters building, not realizing at the time that I had no protection if there was a serious threat. As the Military Police responded, I began directing them, but because I lived off post, I did not have access to my duty uniform and was giving orders from what is basically gym clothes. We had never trained or prepared for this type of situation, so I was consulting the procedures manual with fury. I don’t remember when I finally got home that night, but I remember not being able to sleep. As I look back now, I remember such a spirit of cohesion and pride as our nation bonded together. I recognized that feeling of national pride from the first Gulf War and I was never so proud to put on my uniform.
On Sept. 11, 2001, I was working at a remote Air Force radar site called “Indian Mountain,” about 230 miles from Fairbanks, near the Native Village of Hughes.
Employed by the Air Force as a DoD Civilian, I routinely went to Indian Mountain for environmental cleanup operations. Warbelows Air Ventures at the Fairbanks airport was the primary means for getting to and from the site. They brought me there about four days before and I was scheduled to be picked up by Warbelows on Sept. 11.
On the morning of Sept. 11, I had my bags all packed and was awaiting pickup, along with three to four others in my group. The Warbelows plane was several hours late and eventually a series of phone calls determined that all flights in U.S. airspace had been grounded till further notice. Very little was told to us as to why air traffic had been grounded, but within hours of our watching the news at Indian Mountain it became apparent the terrorist attacks were the cause.
We remained at Indian Mountain for several days awaiting pickup by Warbelows with a simple explanation of “we’ll pick you up as soon as we can, this situation is under the government’s control.”
Round about day No. 4 (Sept. 15) one of the cook’s at Indian Mountain woke me up very early, directing me to “be ready as soon as possible for pickup by a military aircraft.”
So, I did a turbo pack out and proceeded to the pickup area.
Within a couple of hours an Air Force C-130 cargo plane landed at Indian Mountain. The tailgate dropped with two of the four engines still running and the crewman stated they were here to pick up “Mr. Wootten.” Wow, was I ecstatic. I asked the crewman where they would take me, and he said “eventually you’ll end up at Elmendorf Air Force Base.” Nothing more was said to me regarding the plane’s mission or route.
The long trip home included pickups of other Air Force personnel that had also been stranded at remote sites, along with a patrol of some sort, to observe other areas. I heard through the grapevine that Warbelows resumed flight operations about two days later and picked up the remaining people in my group at Indian Mountain then.
I have changed my DoD civilian employment with the Air Force, to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Fort Wainwright. Working with the Corps afforded me the opportunity to deploy to Iraq with the Army for approximately 16 months in the outskirts of Baghdad. This was a great experience for me to support the troops. I was on “Task Force SAFE, for Safe-Actions–Fire & Electrical” (SAFE) lovingly known as the “shock busters”
Douglas C. Wootten
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
I was at Toklat Ranger Camp, mile 53, Denali National Park. I went to the road camp office to catch my ride with the rangers to the Eielson Visitor Center where I worked as a dispatcher/expeditor. I noticed right off that everyone’s gear was in the office but there was no one around. One of the road crew workers came in and I asked him “Where is everybody?” He told me everyone was at the rec hall watching the news because planes had just flown into the twin towers in New York. My reaction was “Seriously?” We went over and joined the group watching the news. We were all stunned. We eventually went to do our jobs.
What I remember about that day was telling people who came in from the campgrounds and backcountry about the news. One girl in particular was visibly upset as she had family working in the towers. I was concerned because my son had been flying from Ketchikan to New York every two weeks to work on tugs and barges in the Hudson River. I didn’t know if he was in New York or Ketchikan at the time of the attack. We still have friends in Iraq and Afghanistan. I’d like to see us end our involvement there. Bring our people home and concentrate on America and our borders.
My son has spent the last eight years (his whole adult life) serving in the United States Air Force. He celebrated his 18th birthday in boot camp in 2003. He is serving his fourth tour in a war zone and has done two other tours in other countries (He has been overseas more than he has been on U.S. soil). Out of those eight years, he has been home for Christmas twice. Most recently, he was able to spend this last Christmas home with his new baby boy. His wife does a great job of caring for their son and their home while he is deployed. He and his family have had to make a lot of sacrifices in their lives while he is in the military, due to the U.S. being at war the entire time he has served.
Here’s what led up to that choice of careers:
As we were getting ready for work and school the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, I heard something on the radio that immediately made me turn on the TV. Me and my two sons watched the videos and heard the news reports about the attacks. All sorts of things go through your mind, like amazement, this can’t be real, why, who? Those reports were, from that day forward, indelibly marked in our minds forever. In addition to that, my son grew up with the ideas instilled in him from serving in Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts. That combination of sense of honor and duty and what happened on Sept. 11 made it a natural choice for my son to choose to serve in the military. We are both glad they did finally get Osama Bin Laden and look forward to the day that our military can spend more time, at home, defending our country from our own soil and shores.
Where was I when I first heard of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2011?
I was on a wildland fire on the Tahoe National Forest (California). I was in a fire camp, and we only heard the news via radio. I listened to a broadcast as events were first unfolding and it sounded like a small private plane crashed into the World Trade Center. I left for a briefing of operational personnel en route to fight the fire when all of us were told that terrorist attacks had occurred. We were all stunned, and it sent a chill up my spine. One recollection I had of that day is we had no television initially. By the end of the day we had obtained satellite coverage and had set up a large screen TV for viewing the numerous replays of the plane crashes and the fall of the Twin Towers.
Do I have a personal connection to the attacks?
Yes. I was the deputy logistics section chief on the Alaska Type I Incident Management Team, and we had the honor of being assigned to the World Trade Center response and cleanup from Oct. 5 through Nov. 5, 2001. It was one of the highlights of my career with the Division of Forestry, and I have so many fond memories of our time in New York. Our headquarters for the IMT was on the 46th floor (as I recall) of the Times Square Hilton. We took over from two other Type I IMTs and our main missions were to help the Fire Department of New York (FDNY) with the overwhelming planning process and to run a major warehouse operation to support the cleanup efforts at Ground Zero.
One of the most amazing things to me about being there was the magnitude of the disaster at Ground Zero and to look up and see how large the remaining skyscrapers were.
I recall that the thing that drove home that real victims had died was when I was on a tour of Staten Island where all the debris was shipped to and sorted through. The operation at Staten Island (known as “Fresh Kills”) was surreal as more than 1,000 workers were going through debris piles and looking for human remains. These workers were all outfitted in white Tyvek suits, black gloves, and goggles, and they reminded me of actors in a science fiction movie. As we drove around the site we came to an area where mangled emergency response vehicles (ambulances, hook-and-ladder trucks, police cars, etc.) were seemingly piled 20 feet high and over 200 feet wide. We were shown the evidence room where they sorted through personal effects and were shown a police officer’s service revolver with melted bullets still in the chamber. As I looked to my left I saw a light table with some two dozen drivers licenses that were picked up in the aftermath of the tower’s collapse. As I glanced at the driver’s licenses I was struck by the thought that these are all that remains of numerous victims.
It was an honor to be there with the Alaska Type I IMT. All of our brothers and sisters in the wildland fire community would have jumped at the chance to actually be doing something in support of the Fire Department of New York, the New York Police Department, and the New York Port Authority, all of whom lost so many members. You can imagine the culture shock we felt as several of us came from rural Alaska to the hustle and bustle of one of the population centers of the entire world. We had to put in resource orders for drivers with urban driving experience to chauffer us around the streets of Manhattan.
I will never forget being at Ground Zero and seeing the responders toiling in debris piles as they looked for civilians and lost comrades. I found many New Yorkers to be kind and welcoming to us, and I think we were kind of celebrities since we came from Alaska.
One amusing anecdote happened to me as I was standing around wearing my orange cruiser’s vest that I often wear when I am responding to fires throughout the country. A tourist comes up to me and says “Excuse me, can you tell me how to get to the Grand Central Station?” I guess he must have mistaken me for a subway official. My response to him was “Hey, buddy, I’m from Alaska” and then without skipping a beat, I added “I believe you take the ‘D’ train and transfer at ... ”
Martin D. Maricle
I had just gotten out of the shower getting ready for work. I was a master sergeant and superintendent for the 168th Security Forces Squadron of the Alaska Air National Guard at Eielson Air Force Base. My wife, Sherrie, a nurse at Fairbanks Memorial Hospital working nights, called me ... “Turn on the news. A plane hit the World Trade Center.” This was about 4:55 a.m.
As I was watching the news and pulling on my pants, I watched in disbelief as a second plane flew into the second tower of the World Trade Center. I knew at that moment this was no accident. This was an attack against the United States. I called my wife back at the hospital. I told her I saw the second plane hit and this was no accident. “I’m leaving for work. I don’t know when I’ll be home. I love you.” I grabbed my “Bug Out Bag” of toiletries, clean underwear and a spare uniform and was gone in five minutes.
For the next five days, I stayed at Eielson in our converted ATCO units and coordinated the guard security forces actions. Our unit commander had been in the Lower 48 and was grounded. We had several personnel on active duty orders providing support and augmentation to the host base, 354th Security Forces Squadron. Our guardsmen were working right beside our active-duty counterparts at the main gate, on patrol, and on the flight line providing aircraft security. Additionally, we started security patrols on the Alyeska pipeline corridor passing through Eielson. These patrols consisted of a two person team on four-wheelers. They would patrol south to Pump Station 8 and North to Moose Creek.
Each morning, I would traverse the long line of traffic waiting to enter the base from the main gate to as far as Moose Creek. I would get a phone call on the locations of some of our senior commanders and planners. I would locate them in the line and direct them to follow me and escort them to the main gate to expedite their entry.
The following month, October, marked the beginning of Operation Noble Eagle. This was where members of the Guard and Reserves were under state and federal orders providing a visible security presence at the airports across the nation. Our commander and several other squadron members armed up every morning and night providing additional security at Fairbanks International Airport. I was activated along with five other squadron members and deployed to Valdez . We provided the additional security required under Operation Noble Eagle to the people and airport at Valdez. I coordinated our security activities with the Valdez mayor, police department, airport manager, state DOT, the Army National Guard and the senior military commander in Valdez, the Coast Guard commander. We were welcomed by all those we met and served this community for 30 days until relieved by the Alaska Army National Guard.
Three months later, I and 12 other squadron members, an entire squad, were federally activated under Operation Enduring Freedom for one year. We deployed twice to the Middle East, first to Bahrain for four months, then to Saudi Arabia for four months. We were extended in place indefinitely as early one morning hundreds of U.S. and coalition aircraft took off in the early darkness. This was the first day of Operation Iraqi Freedom; the war in Iraq had begun. We went home one month later.
Although I was forced to retire in 2005, the 168th Security Forces Squadron continues to grow and serve the state of Alaska and the United States. Members have deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan and other unnamed locations in support of our civilian command authority, all as a result of that fateful day — Sept. 11, 2001.
William S. Perry, Jr., SMSgt, USAF/AKANG (Ret)
I still remember Sept. 11 like it was yesterday. I was a freshman at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. My roommate, Cramer Hickey, woke me up with “Tuscher, you have to see this!” I woke up in a blur with our TV on in the dorm (Stevens Hall) showing the smoke from the first building pillowing out. To be honest, I had never even heard of the World Trade Center, so I wasn’t really sure what to think. The anchors’ on TV kept thinking it was an accident with the first plane hitting the building. As we were watching it, my mom had called our room to see if I was watching, and as I was telling her how crazy that was, the second plane flew in. Seeing that live and the panic and unanswered questions swirling, just made everything so surreal.
We left the conversation with our thoughts and prayers for those on the plane, in the building, etc., and I quickly left for hockey practice. While in the locker room, everyone was talking about it, especially since no one really knew what had actually happened. When we got off the ice, our first class of the day was World History at Schaible Auditorium with Professor Terrence Cole. As we sat down, he explained that more classes were coming in and the place will fill up quickly, for UA President Mark Hamilton was going to explain what was going on. The place was full, well over capacity, for even the aisles were crowded.
President Hamilton gave an incredible speech about what just happened. I remember how confident he was while explaining the situation and how the United States would react and even then, how justice would prevail. The entire auditorium was completely silent as he reassured everyone that our nation was safe and the U.S. government was sending troops to the Middle East as he spoke to figure out the reasoning, etc.
The rest of that day and month was a blur regarding 9/11. The thing I remember the most was the patriotism that came about with songs, flags waving and a lot of news coverage. Over the years, that has died down with changes in politics, economy, etc. I always will remember the phrase “We will never forget” and think how my kids will ask me about 9/11 when they read their history books just like I did about Pearl Harbor and other wars to my parents.
When Osama Bin Laden was killed in May, it made me reflect about 9/11 and the almost 10 years I had lived with this situation in my life. Even though his death will not change the way we live, I believe much needed relief was given to all the victims, victims family and military lives lost, as well as family members’ grief. I am blessed to not have had a direct correlation regarding family and friends in the incident but have had acquaintances along the way traveling to either fight in Iraq or Afghanistan.
I remember during the attacks, it seemed like everyone in America was on board and pro-America spirit was at its highest. I remember President Bush explaining how the process of defeating terrorists was a long one and how the support of our troops were/are needed. I remember as each year passed, the protesting building up on the corners of the streets (in Fairbanks) asking to pull the troops out. I understand everyone is entitled to their own opinions, and I respect that, but I couldn’t help but feel upset for the victims who died in 9/11 as well as after, and troops who were fighting for our freedom. Americans don’t quit. It felt as if it was a slap in the face of all the American soldiers who had fought in WWI, WWII, Vietnam, etc. Our military has established a foundation of “we will not back down from evil” and 9/11 was and still is a testament to that.
Keith E. Bartusch
My memories of 9/11 are very vivid and unforgettable since I was due to be in New York City on the day the Twin Towers came down.
That September I had gone back east to visit family, attend my niece’s wedding in Michigan and visit my son and daughter in law in Philadelphia. And on Sept. 10 I was staying at my son Ronnie’s home in Philadelphia. I was excited that our plans for that day included a visit to New York City to visit Ellis Island, the Statute of Liberty and other New York sights like the Empire State Building. The weather was great and we had a wonderful day together sightseeing. And on that day, from a great vantage point at the Statue of Liberty, I was even able to snap some great pictures of the New York skyline, which included the famous Twin Towers.
But as it goes, our visit to Ellis Island and Lady Liberty took longer than we had planned, so we did not get to see everything we had planned to see. We considered spending the night in the city, but in the end decided to head back to Philly with plans to return the next day to visit the Empire State Building and other downtown sights.
The next morning, Sept. 11, we got up and as we prepared to go back to New York, I turned on the news to keep me company while I got ready for the day. But the shock of what I heard, like most Americans, was unbelievable to me — the Twin Towers had been hit and were coming down. Panic welled up in me, and it felt to me like this was the end of the world. Of course, we were glued to the TV and cried many tears that day each time the news revealed more of the disaster at hand.
My plans to return to Michigan by air were canceled by the end of the day, as President Bush had issued the order to restrict all air travel in America. But after seeing the horror and devastation in New York, that was OK with me. I did make it back for my nieces’ wedding, but only because my son ended up driving me to Michigan.
Like I said earlier, my memories of Sept. 11 are still very vivid and very real to me. My heart still breaks for all the devastation and lives lost on that day, but I will always remember the New York that I saw on the day before life changed for all America.
Similar to most early Septembers since 1975, I and my husband, Dick, were floating in a canoe on the Muddy River. The Muddy drains out of Lake Minchumina, and we were looking for a bull moose. It’s not a great hunting place and few people hunt the area. The wolves, black and grizzly bears are the more frequent hunters.
We floated past “the Old Slough,” “Green Slug Lake,” and other locations. We were about six miles down the river when we saw a riverboat approaching. It had to be someone we knew who hunted this river, too. Sure enough it was Paul Hagglund and his son, Stewart. Paul, a longtime pilot, was born in Fairbanks, son of “Doc Hagglund.” His cabin at Minchumina is near ours. Now he lives in Washington but comes back to hunt and visit.
As we met, Paul hollered, “Have you heard the news about the planes crashing into a building in New York?” Well, no, obviously we had not heard any news as we camped and floated the Muddy. How would Paul know about it? Dick thought it must be a joke — Paul has a dry sense of humor. Dick waited for the punch line.
But Paul had a satellite phone. Downriver about an hour earlier he had called his wife, Becky, who was an airline employee working out of Washington state. She told him about the hijacked plane that had flown into one of the Twin Towers in New York. As Becky was speaking to Paul she was watching the television and saw the second plane fly into the second tower. Needless to say, Becky was horrified, upset, and crying. Another plane had been hijacked and was heading toward D.C. Paul told Becky they would start upriver.
In fits and starts between our questions Paul relayed this information. We sat in the canoe on the quiet Muddy listening in disbelief. Paul and Stewart continued upriver; we continued slowly downriver, trying to comprehend what we’d heard.
After about 15 minutes — or was it less? — we decided to turn around. This was not a joke or a mistake. We had a son working in D.C. We should turn around, go back to the lodge on the lake and see if we could contact him by phone or email. He and his family lived not far from the Pentagon.
We turned around; our 4 hp motor pushed us slowly back up the Muddy. We passed Paul and Stewart, who were having motor trouble. Paul assured us he could fix the problem. We got to the lodge on the lake where several guests were glued to the television set. We were able to send an email to our son and received one back, saying that he and another co-worker had decided it was best not to be in a big D.C. building. They had left their office and were out on the D.C. streets; they witnessed the smoke rising from the Pentagon. He and his family were safe, so far.
The rest of the day we spent largely glued to the television set at Denali West Lodge. We still could hardly believe what we were seeing and hearing as the images and reports were repeated for hours.
Finally, still stunned, we went back downriver to our camp. There was nothing else we could do. It was incredible to have heard the news out in the Bush, almost in the very center of Alaska, when it happened 5,000 miles away.
Dick and Mary Bishop
I was slowly waking up to my radio alarm when I heard the news about the plane crash into the first tower. When I finally realized what they were saying, I jumped up out of bed and rushed to turn on the TV. I sat there watching in shock for a while before I decided I better get ready and go to work. When I got home from work that day I put a tape in the VCR and started recording the news broadcast. The days and weeks that followed were like no other. The sky was eerily quiet with no airplanes flying. My daughter and I debated on whether to cancel our drive down to Whittier to take a glacier cruise the following weekend. We decided to go after all but the thought of enjoying ourselves when so many were mourning their loss just didn’t seem right. At one point my daughter asked why we should bother continuing our college education when the future of our country and world was unknown. I convinced her that the best thing we could do was to continue with our lives as planned and that the rest would work itself out.
Since we don’t watch much TV or generally sit down to the computer early in the day, we often get our news late in the evening. However, Sept. 11, 2001 was a Tuesday and Joanne and I were scheduled to donate blood that morning at the hospital (this was before Blood Bank of Alaska took donations over). I came down to the shop and turned the computer on. While it was taking its usual long time to start up and go online, I happened to turn on the small TV sitting above the computer desk. Still a bit fuzzy from working late the night before I remember Katie Couric interviewing someone who had been in a building that had been damaged. Not really understanding the extent of the situation, I remember getting a feeling that something bad had happened but was not getting the full picture yet. I called Joanne up at the house and I told her to turn on the TV because while I wasn’t sure what was wrong I knew something was. Soon we both had seen the video of the Trade Center strike by the airplanes and knew that there had been an incident but still wasn’t aware of the total damage.
We left and went to the hospital where things were hopping. At the blood donation center, the phone continued to ring with people desiring to donate blood. But because they usually had a full schedule of donors already coming in, the receptionist had to politely explain that they did not have either the drawing or storage capabilities to handle any more donations. There was a pall in the hospital that deepened as more information became available and the extent of the damage became clearer. I remember the shock and disbelief that seemed to permeate everywhere.
When I heard about the plane hitting the Pentagon, it became more personal because my nephew was working there at the time. It took a while before I got the report that he was fine.
We had a vacation in Arizona planned and we were scheduled to leave on Sept. 13. Needless to say, that did not happen. But the strangest thing was the quiet skies. We are situated under one of the flight routes for the small planes to fly north, and for days after Sept. 11 no one was flying.
Like a lot of other people, we have been frustrated with all the hassles with flying out of Alaska. Sometimes the new regulations seem like shots in the dark and the bureaucracy that has developed around them callous and ridiculous. Yet we have not had a major incident since then.
The later attempts have been amateurish and, luckily, unsuccessful. No doubt many of us wish for a simpler time, but I doubt that will occur soon, if ever.