We Remember


Local community shares memories of 9/11

By Michelle Key

Sept. 11, 2001. Eighteen years.
It has been 18 years since the deadliest terror attack on American soil took place leaving nearly 3,000 dead, more than 6,000 injured and millions across the world reeling from shock.
The events of 9/11 created a shift in life, not only here in America, but also across the world. The USA Patriot Act, which increased domestic and border security and expanded surveillance efforts designed to detect potential domestic terrorist attacks, was signed into law by President George W. Bush. U.S. military operations in Afghanistan escalated and an American-led coalition invaded Iraq in 2003.
Changes in air travel have been significant since 2001. The Transportation Security Administration was formed in November 2001 and spends more than $7 billion annually. Prior to 9/11, it is reported that only a modest percentage of checked bags were screened for dangerous materials, whereas now, all checked baggage undergoes scrutiny. Rules for items allowed to be carried onto planes also were also updated to be more stringent.
The World Trade Center Health Program was established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2011 to help track and treat survivors and responders that have experienced health-related issues tied to 9/11.
Since its inception, the program has seen nearly 100,000 enroll, including those that responded to the crash sites in Washington, D.C. and Shanksville, Pennsylvania to assist in the rescue and recovery efforts. As of June 30, 2019, 2,448 program members have died.
Memories of 9/11 and the days and months following were shared by Observer Facebook followers last week:
• “I lived in Tamarack, Florida. Just three miles from where those animals stayed. I pulled my kids out of school. I will never forget that day. The way there was no planes in the air. It was so eerie. All I could do was hold my kids close and cry.” – Lisa Martin
• “Of course I will never forget that day. But I will also never forget the following days and weeks. They were so thick with patriotic sentiment. It was palpable. We were unified as a nation. I think about it a lot these days because we lost that somewhere in the last 18 years.” – Marcy Folta
• “I was working at Northside school in Opelika. We saw it happening on T.V. We could not believe it. The secretary, a teacher snd I prayed and prayed. It was unbelieveable. Still is.” – Evelyn Senn
• “I was teaching at Beulah Elementary. Someone told me what had happened. We found it on the news and I couldn’t believe it. Then someone asked me, “What does this mean for your husband?” My husband is in the Alabama National Guard. I had not even considered that this could affect him. Well fast forward to 2003 and he was called up for deployment to Iraq. Needless to say our lives changed on September 11th in more ways than one.” – Amy Hess
• “I had just gotten up and drove to a nearby store. I was listening to a CD, but this little country store had a little TV on the counter behind the register, and everyone in the store was watching. I didn’t think much of it. Made my purchase and left. But then I thought, this could be big. So I turned on my radio and they were talking about this plane that had just crashed into the Pentagon. In my short drive back to my house, I was unable to grasp the gravity of what this meant. I went in the house and turned on the TV to hopefully make sense of it all. Then the fourth plane went down in the field and the towers began to fall. I was in complete shock. Ten days later, I herniated a disk, and all I could do was lay on the floor, and there was nothing on but 9/11. It seemed the whole world had stopped. It affected me deeply. I still watch the documentaries every year on the anniversary and cry all day. I never want to forget what that day meant and how the world changed.” – Vicki Sexton.
• “I had just started my career in graphic design at the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer when 9/11 happened. Everyone in the newsroom and advertising gathered in our break room watching the news coverage. Many of us cried. We had to fight through the emotions as we worked on a special edition of the paper to go out the next morning. I’ll never forget it. I became an adult that day. I was so young, and I remember thinking that nothing I had studied…nothing in the years of journalism and graphic design at Auburn University could have prepared me for the events we had to cover that day. I was forever changed,” Jenny Scott.
• “I was in 7th grade at Dadeville High. My teacher came running into the classroom telling us all to be quiet as she turned on the TV. We all sat in absolute silence watching it all happen on the news. At first, it didn’t even register that what we were seeing was real. We were all in shock. Everyone started crying. No one knew what to do. The whole world stopped at that moment. I’ll never forget the look on Mrs. Moseley’s face.” Brittney Harris
• “I was getting ready for work in the Army and was stopped in the parking lot. I hadn’t turned on my TV that day. I was speechless and I’m rarely speechless. My story is not newsworthy, but it was real and it was shocking.” – Sandy Waldo
• “I was at home, doing laundry, a little irritated that the kids hadn’t emptied their pockets again. My mom lived with us – she was terminally ill – and I could hear her calling me, adding to my irritation. I just wanted to get the laundry done. But, there was an urgency in her voice, so I ran up the stairs into her room, and there we sat, on her bed, saying almost nothing. The numbness I was feeling by the time my kids got home was overwhelming. When they got off the school bus, I knew – they knew. And one by one, they came in Grammys room, and we sat, watching.
I realized I was holding a few small rocks in my hand that I pulled out of my son’s jeans pocket. I have those rocks today. A reminder of how fragile life is, how even the most insignificant tasks are truly a blessing, and of the day we, as a family, cried for our country – together.” – Renee Messing
• “I was a senior in high school at Chambers Academy. I had just gotten out of Spanish class when a guy ran down the hall and told us what happened. We spent most of the rest of the day with the entire high school crammed in the library watching the news as the horrible tragedies unfolded. Praying and crying was all we could do.” Katie Lisle Grizzle
• “We lived near Fort Rucker, Alabama when it happened. I was driving on post when the news started breaking. I saw dozens and dozens of helicopters being called back to air fields from their morning training flights. It was both awe-inspiring and gut-wrenching to watch.” Amanda Waltman Parker
• “I was in 5th grade at Morris Ave and came back from PE to my teacher crying as they brought in the rolling TVs to our rooms, and remember thinking something really bad must have happened. Then I remember going home and trying to watch cartoons and every single channel had news coverage. Even as an 11-year-old, I knew this was something I’d remember for the rest of my life, and it’s one of my clearest memories.” Mallory Mitchell
• “I was working at EAMC on Skilled Nursing. In the visiting room we had a large screen TV, perhaps the only one in the hospital. Folks gathered from every where. Many embraced in prayers. That’s what we did.” Sally Duer
• “A friend came into my office and said: “You will not believe what is happening!” As I watched the second WTC tower crumbling, I literally could not believe what I was seeing. As the day unfolded, this surreal nightmare watched on TV became harsh reality. As a nation, we were feeling many different emotions: disbelief, profound sadness, anger and even fear. America, and the world for that matter, had been changed forever,” Mitzi Winters
Observer’s staff shares their memories
• “I was at work in Fernandina Beach, Florida. My husband, who was in the Navy, was on the submarine base in Kingsbay, Georgia. A friend called my cell phone and told me that the base was going on lockdown due to “something” that was happening in New York. My boss turned on his TV and we were just starting to watch when we learned that another plane had hit the second tower. We were in shock. My husband was finally able to leave the base, and he went to the schools to pick up our children. Due to their proximity of the military base, they were also in full lockdown mode and no one could enter without ID. That night, our church held a prayer vigil and we just sat and cried and prayed for a couple of hours.” –
Michelle Key
• “I remember seeing the first plane crash and thinking it was a movie. Instead of a normal school day, my mother, sister and I sat in shock watching what unfolded that day. While the sadness of that day still lingers, I remember the glowing patriotism, pride and sense of unity that lingered in the days, months and years after 9/11. In this day and age of constant division, I look back with appreciaton on the time when Americans worked through their differences and strived to work together to achieve a common goal.” – Morgan Bryce.


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