Always remember: Shirley Hoofard

As I drove away, I was filled with relief. After months of being in limbo, the time had finally begun. I was looking forward to the coming year, meeting new people, traveling, learning new things. This week of training would only be the beginning. Besides, it would be nice to have some time away from home and the responsibilities that come with it. Of course, I would miss my family, but it was only a week. There are 38 of us, from all over the country, in Dallas to begin a year of National Service in AmeriCorps, Corps aCross Texas program. We will spend the next year working in disaster services with the American Red Cross.

Shirley Hoofard

Shirley Hoofard

Our first day of real training starts off with teaming exercises, the kind where the trainers “trick” us, and we have to work together to discover the “trick” and solve the problem. It’s a bit cheesy but effective for the most part. We then endure hours of classes: Orientation to Red Cross, Introduction to Disaster Services, Damage Assessment. The hours are long, the material less than captivating. Finally the day draws to a close, and we are granted a few hours of free time.

We begin the second day of training with less vigor than the day before, dreading the monotony that we are confident awaits us. The first few hours are much the same as the previous day: cheesy teaming exercises followed by the drudgery of learning about Mass Care in a disaster. Unexpectedly, Rena, the director of AmeriCorps, interrupts the class. Visibly shaken, she speaks briefly with the instructor then directs her attention toward the group.

Struggling with her words, she tells us, “I think you all should know that two planes have flown into the World Trade Center in New York City. There are other planes that are suspected to have been hi-jacked as well. America is under attack.”

Silence overcomes the room as our minds try to digest the information. Someone says, “Oh, this is a joke. It’s another teaming exercise!”

My mind hears this explanation and battles to believe it, but I know that it’s not true. This is not the kind of thing you play a game about. The room begins to buzz, and the television is turned on to CNN where we see with our own eyes the horrific reality. The director is called from the room, but before she leaves, she suggests we all take a few minutes to get in touch with our families. Grateful for that opportunity, everyone rushes to a phone. Suddenly I am not so appreciative of some time away from home and my family.

I don’t know how much time passed, but it wasn’t long until we were asked to reconvene. Rena informs us that National American Red Cross has asked the Dallas Area Chapter to act as the Family Well-Being Inquiry center in this disaster. Briefly explaining that the families of those in the affected area will be calling to try to find their loved ones, she informs us that we will begin receiving those calls in 15 minutes. “I know you haven’t received training in this function, and it is unfair to ask this of you. Please do not feel that you have to say yes. By a show of hands, who is ready to work their first disaster assignment?”

Every hand in the room went up without hesitation. No one knew what to expect or even what to do. We weren’t prepared for what was coming, and we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. We only knew that we had to do something, anything.

With tears in her eyes and obvious pride in her “Corps,” Rena began passing out the forms that we would be using to collect information. We were given brief instructions on how to handle the calls that would be coming in, and then we were directed to the Disaster Command Center on the second floor.

The Command Center was abuzz with activity. The back wall was filled with television sets, all on and tuned to a different station even though they were all showing much of the same thing. As I sat at the desk I was assigned to, staring at the phone, willing it not to ring, the first tower fell. Before I could digest what my eyes were seeing, the phone rang. I picked it up and stepped into a kind of hell I could never have imagined.

Time passed, and the phones continued to ring. With each call, I am drawn more intimately into the surreal events that were unfolding on the multitudes of TVs at the back of the room. The morning passed into afternoon, and the afternoon faded into evening. More and more people began filling the room as the people in our community flocked to the Red Cross to offer their help.

At one point we were provided with blueprints of the towers, depicting what companies had been located on what floors and the locations where the planes had struck. We knew those who had been at work on those floors would most likely not be found, but we had to keep that information to ourselves. Staring with horror and disbelief at the blueprints, my eyes fixated on the name Cantor Fitzgerald. The blueprint disappeared as behind my eyes I envisioned that name on a form I had completed earlier. The call had come from a 13-year-old girl. As I relived that call, I heard her telling me that it was just she and her dad, that she didn’t have anyone else. Her aunt lived in Oklahoma City, and she had already called her. She was coming to be with her but didn’t know how long it would be before she arrived. I pictured her father, as she described him to me, a single parent doing his best to raise his young daughter alone, an executive at Cantor Fitzgerald that would not be coming home.

Sometime during the night I was asked, along with Christine, a fellow Corps member, to go through a list of survivors and match them up with the inquiries we had received. As we were given the boxes of completed forms to check, I was shocked by how many there were. Confident of finding many matches, Christine and I began the tedious process. One by one, we went through them, searching for a match. Minutes turned to hours. Having completed the first box without finding a name on the survivor list, we became desperate to match just one form with a name, to find at least one family that we could give good news to, one person who we could help. As the night faded into morning, Christine and I reluctantly began to accept the devastating reality of what had happened.

While others in the country were turning to their families for comfort, we had only strangers to turn to. Surrounded by those we had only just begun to know, we formed bonds that would give us the comfort and strength to do what we must in the days to come.

As the hours turned to days, the calls gradually stopped coming. The silence became deafening as the dead pulled their chairs up beside us. The work turned from answering phones to research as we began to seek answers for those who had called us, to try to find their loved ones.

We worked 15-hour days, six days a week, taking the seventh day off as required by the Red Cross on all disaster assignments. My first day off since that now infamous day, my fianc and daughter met me for a day of light-hearted fun and entertainment. It was the first time I had been outside while the sun was still shining, and it seemed very strange to me. Everything seemed different, places once familiar had an alien quality to them. We went to a local shopping center, and as I watched the people milling about, having a good time, going on with life as if nothing had changed, I became outraged. How dare they? Didn’t they understand? Did they even care?

Surrounded by death and despair, I was filled with a desperate hope and a longing for a world that no longer existed. I knew their names, and their stories became a part of me, my life. They became My family, My friends. No longer strangers to me, I knew them intimately. When I closed my eyes each night their faces haunted me.

Weeks passed and the answers were no easier to find than they had been in the first few hours. As I battled depression, my relationships with family and friends suffered. I was no longer able to relate to them, any more than they could relate to me. They had watched the events unfold on television as I had been cast into the thousands of homes who were missing a family member. They had begun the healing process as I stagnated in the desperate attempt to gain more information. They had gone on with life as I wallowed beneath the rubble of destroyed lives. They went into the world, smiled, joked and did all the things we do on a daily basis, in a “normal” world, while I was sorting through lists of body parts, trying to determine which “file” I could match with an index finger of a male Caucasian nail biter.

Beyond exhaustion, I wanted it to be over; I wanted to go home. Before I could do that, we had to close all the “cases.” To accomplish that, we had to verify what had become of the person being sought. I picked up a case and read the description – name … 57 years-old … male … brown hair … hazel eyes 5′ 11″ last seen wearing black trousers with a light blue shirt dark tie suit jacket great chuckle. Dropping the case back onto the pile, I fled the room, the building. I had to get outside, to breathe, escape – if only for a moment.

It had been days since I had been able to accomplish the task of “verification,” and I was desperate for closure when I came across a name that was familiar to me. I knew I had seen it before, somewhere amongst the thousands of cases. Quickly, I searched through the files until I finally located the one I had been seeking. Rushing back to my workstation, I easily verified all the information. I had found a positive match! I could close a case! YES!!!!!! One step closer to going home! Filled with excitement and great pride over my accomplishment

I realized that I had just proven that a man was dead. A man, who had kissed his wife goodbye one morning, perhaps dropped his kids off at school that day. And then he had gone to work, unaware that he would be cast in a hero’s role before lunch. A man who loved his family, loved his work and loved life. A man who had a great chuckle.

I went on to serve not only in Dallas but also in New York where I spent Christmas and New Years doing damage assessment at the apartment buildings located in and around Ground Zero and case work to assist those affected most. I have spent 10 years wishing I could forget everything I saw, heard and did. But I haven’t forgotten. And it is important to always remember, because of the man who had a great chuckle.

Hoofard is a Paradise resident.

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Always Remember: Ima Sherman

On the morning of the terrorist attacks, Sept. 11, 2001, in New York, my church was having a preachers’ conference at my church. It had started on Sunday, Sept. 9 and was to go through Wednesday, Sept. 10. I was the nursery attendant during the conference and had gotten there early that morning.

Some of the preachers were going out to play golf that Tuesday afternoon after the church fed them lunch. One of our members at that time went out to his car to listen to his radio, and he came inside very quickly and said that a building in New York had been hit by a plane, and they believed it had been a terrorist who had done it.

He went back to his car and heard that another building had been struck. So everything our church had planned for that day had to be cancelled, except we did feed some of the preachers.

Some of the preachers had flown to stay with friends who were driving here. Of course all flights had been cancelled that day. It was a shame so many innocent people lost their lives that day. It was an experience I will never forget.

Let’s hope and pray that we never have to experience this again.

Ima Sherman

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Always Remember: Kalani Seibold

On Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001, my wife and I were on a layover in Honolulu when we received a call at 3 a.m. Hawaii Standard Time, from a fellow airline crew member, to turn our TV on. What we saw was totally unexpected and unbelievable. We were at awe and in tears as our eyes were glued to the television.

Kalani Seibold

Kalani Seibold

I was the purser and decided to call my entire crew and have them meet me in my room. In minutes all 13 were present, and we all watched in dismay and in tears. The impact and the devastation took a toll on each of us because as airline crew members, this affected us deeply.

Being a Christian and a deacon, I led my crew in prayer, asking God to protect our country and bless the families who lost their loved ones in this awful, inhumane act. I also prayed over the vulnerability of airline crew members who feared of even thinking of getting back on an airplane.

At 7 that morning, Hawaiian Airlines and Aloha Airlines management organized and arranged to have counselors available to help us deal with fear. Four hundred-fifty pilots and flight attendants of all airlines – American, Continental, Delta, U.S. Air, United, Singapore, Japan, Qantas, Virgin Atlantic and Philippines – gathered at the Ala Moana Hotel. I opened this meeting in prayer, and the floor was opened for discussion.

The speaker was a pilot who flew for Aloha involved in the aircraft she was piloting when a section of the roof blew off in-flight earlier that year. She shared the fear she experienced and was extremely consoling and uplifting, which helped us immensely.

President Bush ordered to ground all the airlines until it was safe to fly again. By Friday of that week, he cleared the airways for all airlines to resume schedule, and we worked our trip back home to Texas that evening. Every passenger on board was quiet, and hardly any conversation took place during the entire trip.

This is my memory of 9/11. In November 2005 my wife and I retired from American Airlines with 35 years each of service.

Kalani Seibold

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Always Remember: Jody Adams

On Sept. 11, 2001, my wife, Rachel, and I were living in Boston. We had been married a little over a year, having moved from Decatur for Rachel to pursue her master’s degree. We lived in Marblehead, but we both traveled into Boston for work and school.

Jody Adams

Jody Adams

I worked for a construction company in their field office as the new Boston Convention and Exhibition Center was being built.

The morning of 9/11 my commute took me through the Ted Williams Tunnel, which runs into Boston’s Logan Airport, at the same time terrorists were boarding the planes that would later hit the towers. I was looking through a set of construction drawings when the first reports came in about a small plane hitting one of the towers. Not much attention was paid until someone turned on the TV in the break room. I remember being completely stunned.

It was then that people began to be concerned about targets in Boston. Many of the supervisors in the field office were guys from New York or had family and friends there. It was very tense sitting in the office that morning.

I was in a section of cubicles with a guy who had very close friends that worked in the second tower and, of course, no one could get through to anyone. I would learn later that those friends did make it out, but only because they went downstairs to get a bagel and were told to get out of there – leaving their cell phones and keys at their desks.

The project executive called us into a meeting and told us that downtown Boston was being evacuated and we were to go home. It was the quietest bumper-to bumper traffic I had ever been in (Boston traffic is notoriously loud and brutal).

Rachel arrived home safely a little later and reported that Boston was like a ghost town.

A couple of days later she was driving to class in Boston when her mom called and told her to stay away from the Copley area. The FBI had just raided the Copley Plaza Hotel, where at least one of the terrorists had stayed. Rachel happened to be driving by the hotel at that very moment.

It took a few days for everyone to return to their routines, though there was a new “normal.”

Jody Adams

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Always Remember: Amy Cromer

I will always remember where I was on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001.

Amy Cromer

Amy Cromer

I took the short drive to drop my daughter off at her kindergarten class at Seven Hills Elementary. She had to be there by 8:50 a.m. I came back to my home in Newark to finish getting ready for my part-time job at the Newark Public Library. When I walked in the door my husband was there with the TV on, and the first plane had hit one of the towers while I had been gone.

It was a feeling of confusion because the world didn’t know what had taken place. We could only hope that it was some sort of horrible accident.

Within minutes as we watched, the second plane hit the South Tower. As the terror played out, we knew it was much more than an accident. It left me with a feeling of vulnerability and fear as I watched the events unfold. Within the hour we saw the South Tower collapse and the flight that crashed into the Pentagon.

When I arrived at the library that morning, we pushed the television out into the breezeway to try and get reception of the coverage. It was a day of fear and confusion. I can remember a mother from my daughter’s kindergarten class asking me if she should pick up her child from school.

That day brought so much into perspective. That day made you want to hold your loved ones a little tighter.

Amy Cromer

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Always Remember: Tiffany Rodgers

I was almost five months pregnant with my first son. I had got up and got ready for the day when I got a text from my friend to turn the TV on. The first plane had hit the first tower. I wasn’t sure what to make of it, wasn’t aware of the tragedy it would become.

When the second plane hit, I thought, “This is bad, really bad.” I remember rubbing my tummy, crying… Scared of what could happen next. I felt so sad for everyone that was lost, their families and friends…sad for the whole country. I made a promise to my son that I would protect him always, no matter how crazy the world is.

Then I picked up the phone and called my mom to tell her how much I loved her.

Tiffany Rodgers

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Always Remember: Annette Stephens

I was on my way to work in Chico, listening to the news on the radio. As I turned onto Farm Road 1810, the DJ advised us that since it was 9/11, the emergency response teams throughout the U.S. would be testing their systems and that we shouldn’t be alarmed. I remember thinking that it was a clever idea to do it on this particular day.

As I sat at my desk getting ready for the beginning of classes, one of my colleagues came in and said, “Did you hear about the plane hitting a big building in New York?” I hadn’t heard anything, so I went to the library to hear the newscast. When I arrived there, people were gathered around the TV watching when suddenly the second plane crashed into the Twin Towers.

We were all horrified, to say the least. Several began crying.

I realized that this was perhaps the most momentous event I had ever witnessed, even though I had been in Dallas not far from Dealey Plaza when President John F. Kennedy was shot. I lived through the death of Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy. Mine was the generation of Vietnam protests, the killings at Kent State University, and the horrible tragedy of the space shuttle.

I was stunned at this event though. I knew life had changed forever for all of us. I sat and cried throughout the next week, watching the aftermath of the event and feeling so helpless to do anything. I finally had to turn the TV off because I was grieving so much I couldn’t sleep at night.

I often wondered why nobody mentioned the emergency response testing after that. Was that part of a plan, or was it just a coincidence?

Annette Stephens

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Always Remember: Carol Bates

I will never forget 9/11 and the events that unfolded on television, and the fact that it was our son’s 16th birthday!

We had bought Jacob a truck for his 16th birthday and presented it to him pretty early that morning, I think around 7.

After he proudly drives it to school, I go back in the house to call our insurance agent to add him and the truck to our policy. As I’m sitting in my kitchen with the television in view, talking to my agent, all of a sudden the TV shows an airplane flying into one of the towers. It was so surreal, like slow motion.

Of course I freaked out and yelled outside for my husband to come in the house. I think my agent and I stayed on the phone together for nearly an hour, as we both watched in horror over this. It gives me chills just thinking about it, as I’m writing this.

Needless to say, it put a dim on my son’s birthday. We waited a few days to celebrate it. Now, he pretty much chooses to celebrate his birthday on another day, other than Sept. 11.

Carol Bates

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Always Remember: Paty Fernandez

I remember that day real well. I was six months pregnant with my first child. I was getting ready to go to my mom’s for our daily lunch when I turned on the TV and saw the first tower had already been hit, and there was smoke coming out of it.

Paty Fernandez

Paty Fernandez

My first thought was that it was a fire in one of the buildings in Dallas or something like that. I called my mom knowing she probably already knew what was going on because she usually got up earlier than I. This time she hadn’t.

She turned on the TV, and we were watching it together while still on the phone. I was telling her what was going on, about how the headlines were saying that a plane had crashed into one of the World Trade Center buildings. As I was telling her the second plane crashed into the other building.

We both couldn’t believe what we were seeing and started crying. We just kept saying we couldn’t believe someone would do that and kept feeling horrible for those people who were trapped in the buildings and those who were in the planes.

Of course like everyone else in the rest of the world we stayed glued to the TV for more happenings and news. It truly was a very sad and horrible day for the United States.

Paty Fernandez

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Always Remember: E.D. “Drue” Bruton

It was an ordinary corporate jet flight from Addison, Texas, to New York, N.Y., with a stop in Atlanta, Ga. The date was 9/11/01.

E.D. Bruton

E.D. Bruton

We departed early in the morning on a beautiful flight. The descent into Atlanta and talking with Atlanta center was completely normal with no indication of any problem. We were changed to the Atlanta approach frequency at below 18,000 feet.

After calling approach, we were asked if we were terminating in Atlanta. Upon informing approach that we were just dropping some passengers and proceeding to New York, we were told to plan to stay in Atlanta. I confirmed the transmission and asked if he meant it.

He did.

We asked why and were told we would be informed on the ground. This was completely baffling, and all other aircraft checking in with approach were being told the same: “plan no departure.”

We started the approach and were changed to tower frequency. Their instructions were “cleared to land and plan no departure.” Ground control was no more informative. After parking and opening the door, the ground crew informed us what had happened in New York. The information about Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania came later.

Our passengers rented cars and drove back to Dallas. We (the crew) stayed with the aircraft in Atlanta and were allowed to return to Dallas five days later. The entire experience is one I will always remember.

E.D. “Drue” Bruton

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Always Remember: Nathan L. Horner

I was at work when one of my friends from the front office brought a picture off the web of the first plane hitting the tower. I was passing it around the shop when we heard the second plane hit the tower, and then everybody in the plant started to get worried.

As the day progressed and news broke of the other planes crashing, it really got bad.

When I got off work and got home I could not do anything but worry and wish I could do something. I work at a company that builds gas and welding apparatus. That is when I decided I would go back to work, and I built some fixtures to machine some extra-long cutting torches that we would send to the Twin Towers for the rescuers to use to cut the beams out of the way.

These torches were about 30 feet long so the rescuers could stand on one level and be able to cut the beams on a lower level.

That was my contribution to the event, and it made me feel like I had least helped in some way.

Nathan L. Horner

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Always Remember: Bridget Williams

I was teaching a fifth-grade math class when a parent of a student whose father was a pilot came in to talk to her son. She had received a call from the airline stating the father’s flight had been detoured but they didn’t know where to. He was actually flying to Washington, D.C.

Bridget Williams

Bridget Williams

Upon hearing of this information, I remembered my mother was due to fly to Pennsylvania that morning to meet with my aunt, and both were to catch a flight to Europe. There was no contact made with my mother until after 1 that afternoon.

She was not allowed on the plane but her luggage had already been loaded (funny that I could find out about her luggage but not her).

Anyway, it all turned out OK. Mom was safe, the student’s father was safe, but all of America’s lives were turned upside down!

Bridget Williams, Principal
Alvord Elementary School

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Always Remember: Teena Peck

I remember that day well. I was 22 years old, had only been married for two years and was a mom of my first son, Austin, who was 1, and my second son, Kyle, who was only one month old. My world was all about them.

Teena Peck

Teena Peck

That day I was playing with my sons and watching their shows on the Disney Channel. I had no clue what was even going on until I got the phone call from my husband to tell me what had happened and to turn it to the news channels.

I was shocked that something like that could happen in this country and with me being a new mom it was scary to think what the future could hold after the attacks.

For days all we watched was the news, trying to understand why this had happened and who would have done such a devastating act on America’s people. We watched the heroes and the police and firefighters doing what Americans do, helping others and proving that America is the best place to live and start a family.

We will never forget, and God Bless America.

Teena Peck

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Wise Countians come together for prayer

By Brian Knox and Lydia Tilbury Hair
Orgininally published Thursday, September 13, 2001

When a tragedy on the scale of Tuesday’s terrorist attacks hits the nation, it has a way of bringing the country, and neighbors, together to do what may be the only thing to do.


That was what nearly 100 citizens did Tuesday at noon at the First United Methodist Church in Decatur.

Filing into the church, the sounds of the church organ playing hymns such as “A Mighty Fortress is Our God,” “The Church’s One Foundation” and “We Stand on the Promises” seemed to encourage Christians to stand firm in their faith in the face of disaster.

“We have to remember who is ultimately in control, and it’s God,” one woman said. “He is in control. It’s hard for us to feel that way in light of what is happening, but He is in control.”

One woman stood and shared a word of scripture from Second Chronicles, chapter 7, verses 14-15.

“If my people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land. Now My eyes shall be open and My ears attentive to the prayer offered in this place,” she read.

Many people in the audience asked for prayers for family members or friends that were in the New York area or in Washington D.C. while others asked for prayers for government leaders and for America to stand strong together.

At one point a boy, probably not more than 12 years old, stood silently before beginning to speak. His words quickly dissolved into tears as he tried to express his fear and pain for the victims.

During the service people stood and sang “America the Beautiful.” They fought back tears while singing the patriotic song on a day the nation was witnessing one of its darkest days.

“It’s still our vision,” pastor Rusty Hedges said of our nation. “A place of sanctuary, a place of freedom, a place that is indeed beautiful.”

After reading scripture asking for protection from evil and justice for evil-doers, Hedges spoke of the importance of resisting the feelings of vengeance.

“We are overwhelmed often with feelings of anger or vengeance. And yet I think God calls us to rise above that. Which is not to say that it is not our hope that there will be a vigorous and effective response from this tragedy. But that we would not be drawn into one act of vengeance to follow another,” he said.

He read from Romans, chapter 12, verses 9-21, ending with verse 21, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

Hedges said it is important that the attack does not cause Americans to be drawn into violence and destruction.

“I would hope that we might through our prayers and our actions not be overwhelmed by evil, but through our faith be able to overcome evil with good. That our way may be a way of peace, of healing, of forgiveness, to lead the way toward some reconciliation in the hopes that this day would never come again,” he said.

Roy Faubion, pastor of Father’s House said that it is important to remember that terrorism such as this is something the Israeli and Palestinian people live with day after day and that this was a time for America to stand with Israel.

“This is war. The terrorists have attacked America,” Faubion said. “If this won’t get us to our knees, I don’t know what will.”

At the end of the service, many sat in silence in the pews while others gathered around the altar to pray together. Some wept, while others buried their head in their hands.

One elderly couple left the church, still wiping away tears. For Thomas and Edna Brumett, Tuesday’s attack brought back memories of the tragedy to which it is now being compared.

“I had a brother at Pearl Harbor,” Mrs. Brumett said, having to stop and compose herself. “This is the same sort of outrage. I didn’t know for three weeks what had happened to my brother and this is the same torture for those who don’t know what has happened to their loved ones today.”

Mr. Brumett, a World War II veteran said, tears steaming down his weathered face, that the feeling in America Tuesday was the same feeling that Americans had on Dec. 7, 1941. “It is just terrible, terrible,” he said. “This brings back so many memories.”

Jo Ann Springer of Decatur seemed, like many Americans, to still be in shocked disbelief. “I am just dumbfounded,” she said. “This is the last thing I would have expected. How did it happen? I just hope President Bush makes the right decision.”

One man seemed to express the thoughts of everyone there.

“We need to hold up our officials to the Lord, not criticize them and pray that they would make the right decisions and be there for each other.”

On Tuesday, it was clear that these citizens were there for each other and for their country. And far from downcast, they were determined and if anything, strengthened in their faith.

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National tragedy: Security tightened throughout U.S., including Wise County

By Umut Newbury
Originally published Thursday, September 13, 2011

The attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington D.C. caused authorities to take heightened security measures even in Wise County Tuesday.

As the Wise County Messenger was being printed Tuesday, national television networks reported four commercial airline planes being hijacked by suicide bombers on the East Coast.

Two of the planes crashed into the World Trade Center, causing both towers of the building to collapse; one crashed into a wing of the Pentagon and the last crashed into a field in Somerset County, Pa.

Early reports indicate hundreds, if not thousands of fatalities and injuries in New York City and Washington, D.C., combined.

In Wise County, the sheriff’s department sent deputies to each school in the county to do security checks, said Sgt. Robin Melton, public information officer.

“We asked them if they wanted to stay open or close for the day,” Melton said. “The schools left it up to the students and let those who wanted to, go home.”

The sheriff’s deputies also checked with all the area airports for suspicious planes.

“There shouldn’t be anyone flying at all. We are in a no fly zone,” she said.

Brian Engel, director of public affairs for Mitchell Energy and Development Corporation, said the company increased security on all plants.

“The first thing we did early today when we heard about what happened was to heighten the security,” Engel said.

Mitchell Energy’s corporate headquarters were not evacuated in the Woodlands.

“There has been serious evacuation in downtown Houston,” Engel said, “but we are operating in our offices…I can’t say as usual, but we are here.”

George Jackson, region operations manager for Mitchell Energy in Bridgeport, said the company would follow the authorities in security measures.

“We are too flabbergasted to think of anything else right now,” Jackson said.

Sheriff Phil Ryan also increased the patrol around the Mitchell Energy plant in Bridgeport and the Lake Bridgeport Dam.

“We feel helpless in not knowing exactly what to do during this crisis, except for prayer,” said Ryan.

People trying to locate loved ones that they believe could have been in any of the affected areas are encouraged to contact the American Red Cross Family Well-being Injury line toll-free at 1-(877) 746-4964.

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Pilot offers perspective on tragedy

By Brian Knox
Originally published Thursday, September 13, 2001

Rex Keese of Decatur has been a pilot for Delta Airlines for 14 years. Like everyone else who watched in horror at Tuesday morning’s events, Keese made an observation about the pilots of the doomed planes.

“My guess is the terrorist who did it knew how to fly. I guarantee you no (commercial) pilots would have flown their plane into a building. They would have to be dead first,” he said.

Access to the cockpit, Keese said, is not difficult because the door is designed so that people can move in or out in an emergency situation.

“The only way a person could gain access would be if someone at the back would be able to sneak a weapon on board,” he said. “That’s security’s worst nightmare. If someone is single-minded enough to get in there and hijack a plane, they will do it. Terrorists these days have resources. They can make their own security badges. It’s a security nightmare.”

Keese said that all pilots go through training to help them handle a hostage situation.

“We talk about things that occur during hostage situations. We go through a canned hijacking in mock-up and we’re basically taught to observe so you can determine how many terrorists you’re facing, where they are, what weapons they have. Flight attendants are taught delay tactics to buy time for hostage negotiators. … Historically our training has been to delay hijacking so negotiators can work with them. Usually there is some sort of ransom involved, a release of prisoners or something, but when you’re talking about a terrorist with a death wish there’s usually no way to prevent it.”

Keese said the type of terrorist attack on Tuesday is the hardest kind to defend against.

“Coming from a military background (eight years in the Air Force) this has been something that has been on the national security agenda for years. This is the sort of thing the U.S. security was afraid would happen. It is the most difficult kind of attack to defend against. You can have your nuclear shield and Star Wars missile defense system, but those things won’t stop something like this.”

Keese said the type of security at airports that has been used lately is at an intermediate level and hasn’t been at the highest level since the last World Trade Center bombing.

He described what the highest level of security would entail.

“Nobody but passengers get past the security check points. There is no drop off of passengers at the curb, people must park and walk. All bags are thoroughly checked.”

Keese was scheduled to fly to Atlanta Tuesday night, but those plans changed. Seeing the day’s events left him in a state of disbelief.

“When your heart’s in your mouth, what can you say? It’s amazing,” he said.

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Hearing son’s voice brings relief to mom

By Lydia Tilbury Hair
Originally published Thursday, September 13, 2001

Bessie Bell Watson of Decatur spent most of Tuesday morning anxiously watching her daughter, Beth Addington, continually redial the telephone.

The call was to the cell phone of Watson’s son who works in a building across from the Pentagon.

“She just came in and said, ‘We are gonna find him.’ My husband was out of town, so it was just me and her.” Watson said, her voice filled with the relief of a mother who had just found out her son was safe amidst the rubble, smoke and fire of one of America’s greatest tragedies. “And she kept pushing redial on that phone.”

Finally, Watson was able to hear the voice of her son, Randy Watson, 42, who works for the U.S. Agency for International Development, Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance Operations Support Communication.

According to Watson, that office does the same work in foreign countries that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) does in America.

The son’s words to his mother were short and to the point – what you might expect from someone practically at ground zero of the attack on the Pentagon.

“I am fine but I am in a disaster zone. I am extremely busy,” he told her.

That was enough for his mom.

“I just wanted to hear his voice,” she said. “You think everything is going to be fine, but until you hear his voice, you just can’t rest. Knowing his office is just right across the street is very scary.”

Another happy ending came for the family of Doug Elliott, who is contractor on a building project for First United Methodist Church in Decatur. His son works inside the Pentagon. Pastor Rusty Hedges asked for prayer for the man and his family and others with relatives close to the tragedy during a special prayer service held Tuesday at noon.

Hedges, when contacted Tuesday afternoon, said that Elliott had heard from his son. He was unhurt by the blast that rocked the Pentagon when a plane slammed into the building.

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New York City tragedy hits close to home for DHS teacher

By Mitch Word
Originally published Thursday, September 13, 2001

Barbara Evans is a multi-subject teacher at Decatur High School. Tuesday morning’s terrorist attacks hit close to home for her.

Evans’ 25-year-old daughter, Ashley Stewart, works for Bank of America in New York. Her normal place of business is the Merrill Lynch Building, located inside the World Trade Center in New York.

Evans said that she and her daughter talked by phone about 6 a.m. Texas time as Stewart was driving to work.

“We talked about normal things, when she was coming home for the holidays, things like that,” Evans said.

During her economics class that morning, Evans said the class was finding it difficult to get on the Internet for information.

A teacher then came into the classroom and told her what had happened in New York.

“I immediately got on the phone and tried to call my daughter’s cell phone,” Evans said. “I couldn’t get through to her and I was pretty shaken up by that.

“Then I talked to my husband, who said he had gotten a call from Ashley. She was all right.”

Seems that Stewart had to go elsewhere before she went to work. When the horrific attack took place, Stewart was 50 blocks away from the scene instead of right in the middle of it.

“If she hadn’t gotten that call through, I don’t know what I would’ve done,” she said. “I would probably have been out in my car having a wreck or something.”

Evans said her thoughts immediately turned to her daughter’s co-workers and friends that were in the building when it was struck.

“I am so concerned about her friends and people there. This is so terrifying,” she said. “I’m lucky she wasn’t there, and I’m relieved.”

Apart from the personal affects of the tragedy, however, Evans said her students will absorb a rich amount of information.

“I teach economics, and the World Trade Center is the heart of this country’s financial district. When New York shuts down, the world shuts down,” she said. “Also, I’m a history teacher, and we have history unfolding right before our very eyes.”

Evans also has a psychology class. Due to the attack, her class has a specific direction it can now take.

“We’re talking now about the profile of a terrorist, about their functions and disorders” she said. “This type of thing is all religion based. The kids have a really hard time understanding how people could believe so strongly in something.”

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Home of the Brave: The symbol of our freedom – The American flag

By Umut Newbury
Originally published Sunday, Septemeber 16, 2001

Robert Ivy of Decatur was sitting at his desk inside the St. Vincent Hospital office building in Manhattan Tuesday morning when he heard the roar of a jet engine flying over.

“I thought it was a medical helicopter landing on the roof of the hospital,” he said. “You connect things you hear with feasible things and a 767 flying over downtown New York City is not one of them.”

Ivy works for Superior Consultant, a Michigan-based health care computing consultant company. For the last six years, he has been working as an information system specialist for different hospitals across the country.

In November 2000, he was assigned to St. Vincent’s Hospital in New York City.

“I’ve been flying to New York City almost every week, except for vacations,” he said. “I usually leave early Monday morning and come back late Thursday.”

In New York City, he stays at the Holiday Inn at the United Nations Plaza across the street from the Israeli Embassy.

This week, he was scheduled to leave Monday morning at 8 a.m. as usual, but American Airlines canceled the flight. He took a later flight in the day, getting to New York City after 5 p.m.

Tuesday, he arrived at St. Vincent’s Hospital about 7:20 a.m.

“It was a beautiful day in the city,” he said. “It was a bright sunny day, people were opening their shops, buying bagels from street vendors. Within the span of an hour everything changed.”

After the first plane hit the World Trade Center Tower 1, Ivy said everybody in the office thought it was an “aviation accident.”

“We all went outside the building to 12th Street and Sixth Avenue,” he said. “There wasn’t a lot of black smoke. You could look right down Sixth Avenue and the north face of the building is right there.”

The streets, Ivy said, were filling up with people and traffic started to thin out.

Seeing things happening on the television set is much different than seeing things in person, he said.

“When you see these 1000-foot buildings with a hole in it … ” Ivy said, his voice trailing off. “I don’t know why it affected me so much, but my co-worker and I stood there and cried for 20 minutes.”

Then, Ivy went back into the office building before the second plane ever hit Tower 2.

St. Vincent’s, he said, went into disaster mode in less than 20 minutes after the first attack.

“They set up a command center in the cafeteria and people started coming in off the street to volunteer,” he said. “They did great.”

Ivy went back to the office building after the first attack, but started to “feel stressed,” he said. “I didn’t know why I was feeling stressed.”

So Ivy left the office and went back into the hospital to put his name on the volunteer list.

He had worked at Parkland Hospital as a radiologist. He thought he could help.

“People started coming in by the hundreds,” he said. “There were too many things happening too fast and we hadn’t even heard about the Washington D.C. or the Pennsylvania planes.”

“When I worked at the emergency room I saw gun wounds, stabbings. I thought I had seen it all,” he said, “But there were so many injured people in one place – that was upsetting. I don’t know how other people handled it. I couldn’t handle it even at the volunteer level.”

What he saw in New York City Tuesday, Ivy said, cannot be described in words.

“You can say it is surreal or horrible, but then you think (those words) are not enough,” he said. “Seeing that many people screaming and sobbing, it was hard.”

By 11:30 a.m., after the second tower collapsed, Ivy decided to leave the area because he felt “unsafe.”

“I’ve never seen anything that traumatic … it was so vicious. A natural disaster would have been bad enough,” he said. “This was an enormous conspiracy. I thought one of the targets could easily be the nearest hospital.”

“They cordoned off everything below 14th Street,” he said. “So we were right inside the police line, where only pedestrians and ambulances were in.”

The streets, Ivy said, were filled with people, describing it as “Midway at State Fair and widen the width to a four-lane city street.”

People were mostly looking at what was left of the second tower. He had to walk to get to his hotel, because the cabs were not running, the subways were shut down and the city buses were filled with people.

At the Crown Plaza where the Holiday Inn is located, security was high.

“Because of the proximity to the embassy they didn’t want to allow anybody into the area,” he said. “The National Guard was there, I had to show my hotel key to get in.”

He felt safer at the hotel with all the security around and watched television.

“I was naive enough to think I could get on a plane Thursday,” he said. “Those of us who fly for a living don’t even think about it. But I was only kidding myself.”

Wednesday morning, Ivy said, he could smell the smoke in the air and started feeling “rattled.”

“There was a haze over the city,” he said. “I always fly on 757s from Dallas-Forth Worth to LaGuardia because they are more comfortable. Wednesday I didn’t think I could look at one that was parked.”

Instead, Ivy and another co-worker from Denton decided to rent a car Wednesday.

“I really wanted to get out of New York City,” he said. “Maybe others didn’t feel that way, but I was the only one from the company at St. Vincent’s when it happened.”

There were no rental cars available in New York, especially outbound, one-way. Ivy and his co-worker finally learned they could get one in Connecticut.

They had to take a train out of Grand Central Station to New Haven and then take another Amtrak to Hartford.

Once in the car, they drove 1,800 miles in 28 hours.

Ivy arrived home in Holly Ridge Friday morning.

“If we had not done it right then, I think we would have been still stuck in New York,” he said.

Now, Ivy says, it will be a while before he flies again.

“We planned a vacation to Las Vegas, too, but I think we’ll drive,” he said. “I don’t know how long it is going to be before I feel comfortable to fly again, but you can’t let these people change our routine and govern our way of life.”

As for his job, which relies on air travel, Ivy said it will have to be put on hold for a while.

“All bets are off for a while. I’ll probably dial into their computer line from home and do some remote work.”

Superior Consultant, Ivy said, has a counseling service for traveling consultants because of the stress caused by the job.

Thursday, he contacted the counseling service for the first time.

“I talked to them and I will probably keep on talking to a therapist for a while,” he said. “I feel OK most of the time, then it’s like someone’s hitting me in the back of the head with a sledgehammer.”

Ivy said he cannot pinpoint to the cause of the psychological effects of what he has seen.

“I don’t know if it’s empathy for the victims, or the fact that I’ve always flown American 757s or my personal fright, or the fear of what is going to happen to our way of life … ” he said. “You replay the whole thing in your head … if anything ever felt like a war zone, this was it and I can’t get it out of my head.”

It will also be a while before Ivy returns to New York City.

“It will be months before they get the rubble cleaned up. It’s not going to be a place to be,” he said. “It’s going to be a while before I feel safe being there.”

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Attack on America; Wise County feels pain of national tragedy

By Lydia Tilbury Hair
Originally published Sunday, September 16, 2001

Between them, Laura Montgomery and Carole Sanders have 73 years experience as flight attendants for American and Delta airlines.

Both are scheduled to go back into the air in the next few days, yet both say they are not afraid. They agree that what happened Tuesday in Washington and New York is something that would have been hard to prevent.

“If you get a group of terrorists who really want to take over a plane there is only so much you can do,” said Sanders, a former Wise County resident who now lives in Jacksboro. “I have been flying for 40 years and it is something everybody thinks about.”

Montgomery, who lives in Decatur, has flown for Delta for 33 years.

She said that she believes that if someone is determined to “wreak havoc,” they will find a way to do it.

“There is not really anyway you can guard against it,” said Montgomery. “I will be much more aware of my passengers now, but these men obviously had the means to do what they did. I think it will be long time before things are back to normal.”

Both women receive training every year in what action to take in the case of a hijacking and say they would fall back on it in a situation such as occurred in New York and Washington this week.

But Montgomery says that she believes the whole scenario will have to be reevaluated.

“We have been trained to talk to them and, if there is a male flight attendant, they would keep them in the background because it is believed that a woman will have a better chance to connect with a hijacker,” Montgomery pointed out. “They would do such things as show them pictures of their family. But this is all different. In the past the hijackers wanted something, or to go somewhere – these men didn’t want that. They wanted to crash those planes. How do you deal with that? And what happened, happened in a matter of moments when you are talking about taking off in New York and then crashing into the Trade Center.”

Sanders said that flight attendants are prepared to handle the situation as best as possible and security is good. But, being human, eventually someone will let their guard down.

As far as how a terrorist could get into the cockpit, Montgomery said she can understand.

“If something happens, we are supposed to pick up the phone, call the cockpit and give a coded description of what is going on without alerting the hijacker so that the pilot can then call the ground and tell them we have a problem,” Montgomery said. “But, if I pick up that phone and the pilot hears screams from the passengers and the flight attendants, I can’t believe the guys would not open that door. I am sure that is what happened in this case.”

Sanders was aquainted with the flight attendant that called from one of the airliners that crashed.

“I know that she had a lot of years of flying and received the same training I had,” Sanders explained. “She got on the phone and called her supervisors to tell them that they had been hijacked. We are prepared to handle it as best as possible, but if they wanted to hijack that plane there wasn’t much she could do.”

Sanders said now there would be heightened awareness.

“The problem for all of us now is going to be putting everyone into a category,” Sanders said. “But we have to depend on our government to keep the terrorists under surveillance. If George Bush will do what he says he is going to do, maybe things will get better.”

Montgomery agrees but says that in terrorism, even a clean-cut college student could be used.

“You just have to be aware of everyone on board,” she said.

Both women know the dangers inherent in air flight. Both are prepared to go back into the air.

Still, as Sanders put it, “Retirement looks better and better.”

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