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
Decatur


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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
Boyd


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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
Decatur


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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
Decatur


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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
Alvord


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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
Bridgeport


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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.

Pray.

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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Attack on America; Wise County feels pain of national tragedy

By Brian Knox
Originally published Sunday, September 16, 2001

For a generation of American students, they will remember being in class when they first heard of the attack on New York and the Pentagon.

“When I heard about what happened in New York, I was devastated,” said Decatur High School student Paul Warren. “I was upset that people could do something like that. To go out and kill somebody is just uncalled for.”

“I was in awe,” said classmate Ryan Hunt. “It’s not something you’d expect. We have such a good line of defense and then they take a plane and kamikaze the Pentagon. That’s crazy. It amazes me that somebody could do this.”

Pausing for a moment, Hunt thought about how the event could change the way people look at life.

“We take a lot of things for granted. I think we’ll see more emphasis on the importance of the people around us,” he added.

“A lot of people feel this is just the beginning of a major part of history,” student Drew Gage said. “A lot of people were comparing this to Pearl Harbor and some think it was even worse than that. … I think this will bring the whole country closer together.

Tuesday’s attacks were a hot topic of discussion in Susan Parker’s government class.

“I think it is so pathetic that there is so much hate in the world, that people would take a plane full of innocent people and crash them. They’re killing people they don’t even know,” said Rachel Riggs.

Emotions in the class ranged from anger to uncertainty to sadness.

“I was shocked,” said Alfred Malmros, an exchange student from Sweden. “Everybody thinks it’s horrible. I’m afraid of what will happen next. It could start a new war. I don’t think war is the solution for anything.”

U.S. and world history teacher Teresa Powell said the threat of war is one of the first concerns she heard raised by her students.

“The first thing they wanted to know about was does this mean war? We stopped class and talked about it more as it was happening,” she said.

There was much discussion in her class about the historical significance of the day’s events.

“I told them, ‘You are living history. Your children will read about this day in their history books.’ They will be a primary source because they were around when this happened and could watch the events unfold,” she said.

Ironically, the week of Sept. 24 to 28 had already been designated by the state as “Freedom Week,” in which Texas school’s were encouraged to celebrate and study the nation’s history and freedoms. That week’s activities will hold a special significance in light of Tuesday’s terrorist attacks.

“We were just starting to plan the week,” Hilton said. “We are going to have veterans come and speak to our classes. I still think that will be very appropriate. I think that kids need to know that all out war is not the only solution. … I think that if the students could hear from veterans about the realities of war, it might make the kids think.”

At Carson Elementary, Principal Pam Holland said that she instructed teachers not to tell the students about the events as they were happening Tuesday.

“I felt like that was something that was more up to the family to explain,” Holland said. “(Wednesday) when the students came back to school, I told teachers that if any students asked questions about Tuesday’s events to answer those questions.”

That seemed to be the sentiment at most Wise County elementary and intermediate schools.

Holland said that if any student appeared bothered or upset, the student would talk one on one with a counselor or herself.

“We had some discussion with the fourth-grade students, but many of the younger kids just thought there had been a plane crash. I think some still didn’t know anything about it (Wednesday),” she said.

It will be lesson to be learned in another history class some day in the future.


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Remembering Sept. 11, 2001

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

The terrorists’ attack came in New York and Washington D.C. on Tuesday, but Americans all over the country have been affected by the violence and death.

Wise County it is no different.

Both children and adults are asking why and how this could occur and could the same happen even here. People are trying to cope with a tragedy.

Counselors in Wise County have some simple steps to help residents deal with the events of the last few days – though they are quick to say that people should not think that feeling the way they do is wrong.

“People must understand that what they are feeling is normal, especially in relation to an abnormal event,” said Geanna Harris, director of the Mental Health Center in Decatur. “Give yourself permission to grieve and be sad and angry with the unknown entity. That way you can work through it.”

With children it is most important to be open and honest about the tragedy, says psychotherapist Margaret Wheatly with the Counseling Center of Decatur.

“Sit down and talk to these kids, Wheatly explained. “Be open and honest and reassure them that they are safe, that we have a strong government and that we are the most powerful nation in the world and that, above all, Mom and Dad are here for them. Talk to the kids on a level they understand. And it is all right to tell them that you were afraid, too.”

But, she added, children today have such access to television they maybe overexposed to violence and may not be affected as adults who understand that what they are seeing on television is the real thing, not a movie.

Janet Tidwell, a licensed professional counselor with the Helen Farabee Center specializing in children and adolescents, gave several steps on helping children cope with this national tragedy.

“We need to address the information,” Tidwell said. “Ask the child what he or she had seen or heard. Children are inundated by television and radio with the news reports and talk at school.”

Then, address the misinformation, including statements and actions of hate groups.

“You should tell the child that all these people (Arabs and Muslims) are not our enemies and that hate is not the solution,” Tidwell said. “This would be a great time to explain your personal values to children. Especially in children say from age seven and up, you can explain the concept of justice and punishment. This is a great time to explain that violence is not the answer. Right now children are hearing horrendous things, we should go over there and blow them away, that is a knee-jerk reaction to what has happened but children should understand the concept of justice.”

Children might ask themselves, for example, whether or not they will be “blown away” if they do something wrong.

Addressing childrens’ fears is important, and this should be done in their terms, Tidwell said.

“Find out what they are afraid of, such as the sound of a plane, and then question them back to reason,” she said.

Never tell them that their fears are “stupid,” she emphasized.

Third, address the child’s joy.

“If they have a birthday party or some special event coming up, don’t cancel it,” Tidwell said. “Let their fun index stay high. They should still be allowed to laugh.”

Fourth, address behavior. Parents may see some regression in small children. For instance an eight year-old may behave six again. Teens may demonstrate anger and direct it at their parents.

“Don’t take the anger personally, just let them know that you still have rules in your household and restate those rules,” she concluded.

Both Tidwell and Wheatly believe that with the news coverage so intense limiting television is important right now for adults, as well as children. It is natural to want to know and be aware of the facts, but time is needed away from the tragedy. Constant exposure only intensifies anger, both women said.

“This is the time to crank up the VCR and haul out the Disney,” said Tidwell.

Internet access should be limited as well, she said, though she added she believed children’s Internet sites dealt well with the tragedy.

Families should spend time talking, perhaps getting outside together, acting as if the tragedy is not happening. And teachers should “back off” the televisions in the classroom and go back to teaching classes. In short, everyone should return to a sense of normalcy.

“That’s what the terrorists are counting on – that they can get us to panic,” said Wheatly. “Return to normal routines and show them they are wrong. That is what impressed me about President Bush when he went back to the White House.”

And what about adults? The advice is much the same.

“Talking with family, friends, co-workers and church members so don’t keep your feelings bottled up inside,” explained Harris. “Return to normal. Your feelings about the tragedy will have less impact if you go back to doing what is normal for you.”

It’s also important to get enough sleep, make sure that maintain a healthy diet and don’t isolate yourself with your feelings, the counselors warned.

Tidwell said that the Mental Health Center is ready and willing to help the community deal with feelings people may be dealing with.

“We are more than willing to step in and help the community in this situation,” she said.

All three women said that if feelings children or adults are dealing with now last longer than four to six weeks, or if the person changes in any way – such as a change in grades or nightmares – help should be sought through professional counselors or spiritual leaders.


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Students rally to aid victims of attacks

By Brian Knox
Originally published Thursday, September 20, 2001

When our nation faces a challenge, such as a massive terrorist attack, people have a tendency to come together for a common goal.

It is true even in our schools.

Several students all over Wise County decided to take action over the past week, hitting the classrooms and the streets, collecting donations for the American Red Cross to assist with the victims of Tuesday’s terrorist attacks.

Deborah Hilton teaches a student leadership class at Decatur High School. She said after spending the first part of the year trying to inspire her students to be leaders, many have become great leaders in the last few days in a way that has even inspired her.

“They were on this so fast. They spread out over the school, collected cans, found markers, decorated some boxes to take into classrooms (to collect money) and they went into the classrooms and stood in the hallways. I’ve never seen them move so fast on anything before … They collected $354 on Wednesday alone,” she said.

“I think it inspired them so much. A teacher gave them a check for $100. I think that made them stop and think about what we were gathering the money for. Everybody wanted to do something. A couple of kids who hadn’t led much up to that point really got into it and became good leaders,” she added.

Several of the students also pooled together money from their own pockets to buy white ribbon to tie on the antennas of vehicles at the school and in the community.

On Thursday, Hilton’s class was at city hall working on making red, white and blue ribbons to hand out at school on Friday as a way of remembering the victims and showing support for the United States.

Similar activities are going on all around the county. The student council at Boyd High School is raising money for the Red Cross, collecting donations at school and football games, and they are also making red, white and blue ribbons for students and teachers to wear.

On Friday night, the high school marching band played a tribute to the victims. Taps was played by two buglers and then fans and players joined in singing “America the Beautiful.”

While students in lower grades may not have discussed much of Tuesday’s events at school, several intermediate schools held “Red, White and Blue” day Thursday in which students were encouraged to dress in their most patriotic colors.

Decatur Intermediate School has moved up its annual “penny wars” to this week to raise money for the Red Cross to help the victims of Tuesday’s attack. Last Friday, the entire campus gathered around the flagpole to recite the Pledge of Allegiance and sing “The Star Spangled Banner.”

Students at Boyd Intermediate School are also doing what they can to help the victims and the rescue effort in New York and Washington by having a fund-raiser this Saturday, Sept. 22 from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. The event will include a large indoor garage sale, a bake sale, a cake walk, a car wash, a coats for kids sale, moonwalk and money donations will also be accepted. The proceeds from the fund-raiser will go to the American Red Cross. For more information on the event, contact the school at (940) 433-2327, extension 4.

In addition to setting out money jars to collect donations, Slidell High School will have a 5-kilometer run/walk with part of the proceeds going to the Red Cross and part to the senior class. The event is Saturday, Oct. 6, beginning at 7:30 a.m. The cost is $10 for people registering early and $15 for people who sign up to run on the day of the event. The first 100 people to sign up will get T-shirts. A volleyball and horseshoe tournament will also be held in conjunction with the run, and part of those proceeds will also be given to the Red Cross. For more information, call the high school at (940) 466-3118. extension 225.

Paradise High School also found a way to help those people affected by last week’s attacks during their homecoming week. Before the football game Friday night, fans from both teams circled the field and the teams met at mid field to sing the national anthem. The student council raised $550 at the game for the American Red Cross and profits from the sale of temporary tattoos also went to the relief fund. Students in grades kindergarten through 12 are now competing to see what grade can raise the most money for the relief effort.


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Americans enjoy Irish hospitality in wake of tragedy

By Brian Knox
Originally published Sunday, September 23, 2001

Darlene and Larry Kotlarich of Bridgeport were about to have lunch at a pub in Ireland on Tuesday, Sept. 11, when the unthinkable flashed across the television screen.

The CNN broadcast of the devastation that had just occurred to the World Trade Center in New York brought everybody in the pub to a standstill.

“The TV was on and we saw the plane hit the tower. Everybody was gathered around the TV, Irish and Americans alike. Everybody was crying,” Darlene Kotlarich said.

It was immediately evident that this tragedy affected more than just Americans.

“People would come up and put their arm around me and say ‘We’re with you.’ … I had a Texas hat on and people would come up and say, ‘Bush is from Texas. I hope he gets them good,’ ” Larry said.

“They were ten times more upset than we were, and we were pretty upset,” he added.

The couple was nearing the end of their 10-day tour and was scheduled to fly back to the United States on Thursday. Even after learning that all air traffic in the United States was shut down, they still thought they would be able to come home maybe as early as Friday.

As the week progressed, however, that hope faded.

“It feels really weird being locked out of your home country. When they shut down those skies, it felt really strange,” Darlene said.

Because the trip had been paid for in advance, no reservations had been made for any extra days. That meant no transportation and no place to stay.

Throughout their vacation in Ireland, the couple had seen and learned about the different places throughout the country from a chauffeur by the name of John O’Dwyer. On Wednesday his duty as tour guide was up, but when the Kotlariches realized they were stranded, they turned to him for help.

On his day off, O’Dwyer came in his personal vehicle to pick up the couple and take them to a friend of his who had a bed and breakfast in the town of Ennis. He told the owner the two were his friends from America and they were relatives, since Darlene is Irish-American. The owner let them stay free of charge until they could fly back to the United States.

“People were doing this all over Ireland. In any town that had an airport, people were going there and pulling not only Americans, but anybody who was stranded. … They were just taking people home and feeding them until they could get a plane,” Darlene said.

She estimated that there were probably 50,000 people stranded in the country.

Darlene said the importance of family and relatives was very apparent during this time of crisis.

“A lot of them had relatives who work in the U.S.A. at the World Trade Center. A lot of them have relatives on the fire department and police department in New York. It was quite emotional,” Larry said.

Priests told their congregations to “Go get your relatives out of that airport and bring them home,” Darlene said, but added that most people were already doing just that.

When they would go into a pub, Irish citizens would offer to buy them a drink or pay for their dinner.

“They were just totally awesome people. They deserve to be thanked for all that they have done,” Darlene said.

On Friday, the country joined America in observing a day of mourning for the victims. However, Larry said they took it a step further.

“They closed everything, even the pubs, and that’s unusual,” he said.

In every town the couple would see books for people to sign their condolences, including the American Embassy in Dublin.

When some flights again were permitted to fly back to the United States, only elderly people, people who needed medication or people who had family who were in the World Trade Center or the Pentagon were allowed to fly first.

“Everybody else was on standby. That’s what we did. I thought that was extraordinary,” Larry said.

The couple was then scheduled to fly back to the United States on Friday, Sept. 21. However, Darlene was running low on asthma medicine and they were allowed to fly back on Monday, Sept. 17.

They flew first to Boston’s Logan International Airport, the very place where less than one week earlier a group of hijackers had boarded a plane that eventually crashed into one of the towers of the World Trade Center.

What they found when they got off the plane was a different world from the one they had left only two weeks earlier.

“When we got to Boston, our airline was American Airlines, and that part of the airport had FBI agents and national guards with M-16 rifles walking around,” Darlene said. “They pulled two Pakistani men aside to examine their papers. They held up our flight for an hour wanting to know what these men were doing.”

Larry and Darlene said they didn’t mind the wait, or the increased security measures.

At one point, security forced Larry to hand over his cigarette lighter.

“They said ‘You can’t have that on the flight.’ I said, ‘No problem, take whatever else you want, I just want to get on that plane,’ ” he said.

When they flew the next leg of their journey to Chicago, only 17 other passengers were on the plane.

“Nobody wanted to get on American Airlines or United Airlines planes. We didn’t have a choice,” Larry said.

Despite seeing the heightened security and the public fear of flying, the couple say they are not deterred from flying again.

“This was our first overseas trip…and we would do it again,” Darlene said.

“This (increased security) is just something we will have to deal with,” her husband added.

The next overseas trip the two make could very well be to the place that treated them so kindly when they needed help.

“A lot of countries in the world said they were with us, but this was a country that really showed us through their actions. If you’ve got to be stranded somewhere, Ireland is the place to be,” Darlene said.


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Wise County chips in its share

By Umut Newbury
Originally published Sunday, September 30, 2001

From T-shirt sales to car washes, Wise Countians’ creativity and volunteerism paid off in the last two weeks – amounting to more than $50,000 in donations for the victims of the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, D.C.

Decatur’s largest fund-raiser took place Sept. 20 and 21 at the Decatur Civic Center, when the city sponsored a cash donation drop off and bake sale. Donated baked goods and cash donations raised a total of $11,661 for the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund.

The week before, the Decatur Showtime girls softball team was among the first to organize a fund-raising effort by distributing unity ribbons in the parking lots of Wal-Mart and Tractor Supply Sept. 15.

“It just started with the girls on the team and then all their friends showed up and it all expanded really quick,” said Russell Reynolds, the team’s coach. “I thought they did a good job.”

The softball team raised more than $5,000 and gave it to the Boeing headquarters in Dallas, which matched their donations to a sum of $9,000.

Also during the first week of the attacks, a benefit car wash at the Wal-Mart parking lot raised $1,300 for the American Red Cross.

“We probably had about a dozen volunteers who worked 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. that day,” said Cher Jordan, organizer.

At Kenny Renshaw Park in Decatur, eight teams competed in a coed softball tournament Sept. 22 for the disaster relief cause. The teams paid $200 each to participate and the event raised more than $4,000, combined with patriotic T-shirt sales.

The shirts were also on sale Friday at the First National Bank of Texas, downtown Decatur branch. The totals on the donations are yet to be released.

“We are still selling, so we won’t have the totals until next week,” said Julie Perkins, organizer. “We have a company matching us 3-1, so hopefully we will have a large sum.”

Perkins said the local effort will continue next week in Decatur with “America United” T-shirts for sale at Curves for Women, located at 301 S. Main in Decatur. All proceeds will go to the Uniformed Firefighters Association Children and Widows Fund of New York City.

Perhaps the largest local fund-raising effort took place in Bridgeport last week when the Bridgeport, Runaway Bay and Chico chambers of commerce banded together to hold a drive-through donation drive for the American Red Cross.

The event, which raised more than $23,000, was held Sept. 25 at the corner of 9th Street and U.S. 380 in Bridgeport and on the Chico Square. Businesses brought individual employee contributions and several individuals donated large amounts.

“We thought it was going to be a change collecting drive,” said Candi Keener, organizer. “We had several $100 and $500 donations. One couple gave us their tax refund check.”

The volunteers gave American flag stickers to donors for their contribution.

“We were swamped all day,” Keener said. “So many businesses came in and bought T-shirts for employees, we can’t even count.”

Even the schools felt the need to do their part in assisting the victims. The Boyd Intermediate School raised $3,000 at a fund-raiser Sept. 22. The event included a large indoor garage sale, a bake sale, a cake walk, a car wash, a coats for kids sale and moon walk.

In Rhome, residents took cash donations to Wells Fargo Bank, where a Red Cross Disaster Relief account was established to help with the recovery.

The account was initially opened with $1 million from the corporate office and could be accessed at all the branches of the bank, including Boyd. Bank administrators said several south Wise Countians made large donations in the last two weeks, but a local count was not possible since the account is nationwide.


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‘ … one nation, under God, indivisible ‘

By Brian Knox
Originally published Sunday, September 16, 2001

I’ve spent the past few days absorbing quite a bit of information from newspapers and television news reports on Tuesday’s terrorist attacks. But no matter how much information I keep cramming into my brain, it doesn’t help make the reality any more believable.

Can this happen?

Did this happen?

Sometimes I have bad dreams, and those dreams are just as real as anything in my life. I had my share of bad dreams Tuesday night. When I awoke, for a split second I had hoped everything had been a nightmare, but I quickly realized the tragedy was real.

What can you say about an event like this?

As journalists, its our job to put events into words and provide analysis and commentary on news events. If there was ever a news event, this is it.

But how can you put what happened Tuesday into words? Many try, as is evident by all the special editions of daily newspapers around the country that were swept up as soon as they hit the streets. But I don’t know if there are words to describe Tuesday’s attack.

Despite wanting to stay by the television to keep up on the day’s events, I had my own news reporting to do. Obviously, this was a story that affected the people of Wise County just as it did all other Americans.

I knew it was time to find out their reactions.

The first time I ventured outside of the office on Tuesday, it was to walk across the street to a prayer service at a local church.

I entered the sanctuary not only as a reporter, but as an American and a Christian who felt deeply saddened by the continued reports of chaos.

Yes, I was there to cover this prayer service with my colleagues as a news story, but this is one news story that was unlike anything I had covered before. Usually reporters interview people about their personal experiences, whether it is battling cancer or perhaps winning the big game. We normally don’t have the same experiences as those we interview.

That wasn’t the case Tuesday.

On that day, we were all going through the same mixed feelings of sadness, anger, confusion and uncertainty about the future. It was a news story that affected everybody, even reporters.

I saw a mix of the emotions at the service. Many wept, many sat in quiet contemplation and others gathered together to pray. Like many in attendance, I choked back a few tears as I attempted to sing the first verse of “America the Beautiful.” Never had that song had so much meaning to me.

Some at the service said the attack reminded them of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor 60 years ago.

At 24, I’ve never really experienced our country at war. While I’ve heard and seen pictures of Pearl Harbor, until Tuesday, I never really knew what that day felt like.

Later that day, I was in Alvord when I passed a gas station. I had to cross into the opposite lane of traffic to pass about four cars who had stopped in the road. They were in line for gas.

I started to pass by, but I had to turn around an go back. I had a gut feeling I knew what was going on.

“I’ve heard gas is already about $3 a gallon in the Metroplex,” one woman said to me as I walked up to take a picture of the odd sight. Rumors about sharp increases in gas prices had caused some panic.

For some reason, it wasn’t until that moment that I really began to feel the historical significance of the day’s events. Something that happened in two big cities half a country away had caused quite a commotion in a little town in Texas.

Driving back to the office, I passed several hand painted signs with the same simple message on each: “God Bless America.”

I see American flags flying at businesses all over town. I’m not sure if they were there before and I just didn’t notice them or if they were unfurled to show support for our nation.

One thing is for sure, I’ll never pass by another American flag and feel the same way again. I, as I would suspect almost all Americans, felt like this was an attack not on a couple of cities, but on our way of life and our very freedom. That flag is a symbol of our freedom, and it has become a rallying point for citizens in our country. And it should remind us how lucky we are to have that freedom.

I think of the words so many of us said as a child, ” … one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

That’s my prayer.


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