Like the attack on Pearl Harbor and the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, beginning on that fateful day, Sept. 11, 2001, people will forever remember where they were when America came under attack. There is probably nothing more appropriate than the recollections of ordinary citizens to relate to the day the Twin Towers were attacked, the Pentagon burned to near destruction, and an heroic attempt by passengers on a flight headed for our nation’s capitol, prevented that from happening, giving their lives in the attempt.
Raenell Nagel was living in New York City when it happened and told us on Facebook – “That morning, I was getting ready for work and my husband was still asleep when I turned on the TV. The first plane had hit just a few minutes earlier and the news already had footage of it. My first thought was that it was a terrible accident, and I woke up my husband to tell him. By the time he walked into the living room, we saw the second plane hit and that’s when the panic set in because it clearly wasn’t an accident. We didn’t know whether to stay in our apartment or leave, but decided to stay because we had no idea if there were other attacks coming. Phone service was overloaded and disrupted, so we couldn’t call anyone, not even our families to tell the we were okay. Not long after thousands of people began streaming uptown on Park Avenue – getting away from the Financial District, going home. After a couple of hours, we decided to go across the street to buy batteries for our flashlights. At that point, the thousands of people on the street included people who had been near the scene, as they were covered in ash. In the store, there was woman who was beautifully dressed, covered in ash and blood, and clearly in shock, asking the store clerks and everyone else if they could help find her friend who was lost,” Nagel said. “The rest of the day and the days after kind of blur together for me. There was a deep sadness and continued fear around the city. There was much less activity, much less noise, and things were just surreal. I would say that it took months for the city to return to normal. I used to walk down First Avenue quite frequently, near a string of hospitals. People had posted hundreds of photos of people who were missing, in hopes that they might turn out to have been taken to one of those hospitals. Even weeks after the day, the photos stayed up as a sort of impromptu memorial.”
Schools were particularly affected by the series of events of that day.
Michelle Worthington remembers clearly – “I was in an apple orchard in St. Paul Kentucky, I heard it on the radio and my heart dropped to my stomach. My daughter was in kindergarten and I went to get her and the school was on lock down. Needless to say when she graduated she joined the army.”
Ashley Cowboys Berger said – “I was in school. A teacher was late getting to class and came in with a TV with the news on it then got pulled out of school because all the schools were closing.”
Jennifer Geary was a senior in high school and remembers watching students sign up for the military as the result of the attacks.
Sue Pelphrey was in the publisher’s office at the Portsmouth Daily Times – “Watching the events occur that have changed our lives.”
Barbara J. Pratt, a well-known local radio personality was working at the Red Cross. “I can remember Cindy Schultz, the CPR/First Aid Coordinator for our chapter at the time, telling the staff what had just happen in New York. I don’t think she touched a step coming from the second floor (twice) of the old Red Cross house,” Pratt related on facebook. “I was Blood Services Coordinator and saw the Blood drives change the course, We were having difficulty in encouraging folks to donate prior to 9/11 and then at that time everyone wanted to donate blood and help. We had to turn people away. People were upset because they were turned away. No one understood why because we were always requesting blood donors. Shelf life of blood was the main reason. We wanted to keep the shelves full but could only keep the blood supply for a limited time period. It was a very difficult time for all Red Cross volunteers and staff.”
For the Ohio River Valley Chapter of the American Red Cross now, the 9/11 weekend means service to the community.
“We have Shawnee State (University) students that are coming on the (Sept.) 10th since 9/11 is falling on Sunday,” Debbie Smith, Director of the local chapter of the Red Cross, said. “So we’re doing a volunteer day of service on Sept. 10.”
Smith said volunteers will be learning about the Red Cross and take flyers around where that agency installs free smoke detectors.
“They also do some work here around the office,” Smith said. “We communicate to them what all the Red Cross does and try to get the youth of the area to support the Red Cross and help to support our community.”
Getting in on the 9/11 state of mind is the Portsmouth Public Library, where they are recommending several books dealing with the topic or at least 9/11 serving as a backdrop for a story. Those books are on special display over the next few days.
True Honor by Dee Henderson, is a captivating love story about a CIA spy and a Navy SEAL whose paths cross right before 9/11.
The Submission by Amy Waldman centers around a committee that is set up to design a 9/11 memorial when they become intrigued by the name of the garden design winner.
One Tuesday Morning by Karen Kingsbury, is the first book in her Sept. 11 series and follows the families of two men affected by the tragedy, a New York firefighter and a businessman.
Neither of the two New Yorkers vying for the White House is expected to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the Sept. 11th attacks with a visit to ground zero.
Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are not slated to attend the annual commemoration at the World Trade Center on Sunday, a spokesman for the memorial told The Associated Press on Tuesday.
“We have not heard from either presidential candidate, nor the president of the United States, that they will be attending,” Michael Frazier of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum said.
Throughout the community there will be observances and for some it will be a day of reflection and introspection, but one thing is sure – it is a day no one who experienced it will ever forget.
Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.