In the mid morning hours, just before 9 am on Sept. 11, 2001, the world literally stopped as planes carrying innocent passengers began hitting their targets in New York City.
Shortly after the attack on New York, passenger planes crashed into the nation’s defense hub, the Pentagon, in Arlington, Va., and another plane was taken down in Pennsylvania after passengers stopped the terrorists from sending it to another unknown target.
The events of that day have affected all our lives in some way including security stops at professional sporting events and concerts as well as most public buildings. Locally the Portsmouth Municipal Court building as well as the Scioto County Courthouse has metal detectors at the entrance.
Patty and Richard Risby and their two daughters, Ellie and Charley were attending a friend’s wedding in England.
Patty and Charley had no vacation time, so they were attempting to make the trip back to the states. Richard and Ellie went to Portsmouth, England, to meet friends for lunch. Lunch was interrupted by a phone call asking where were Pam and Charley, as there had been an incident involving an airplane in New York (their destination).
Richard and Ellie were walking by a sports bar to see on television the second plane hitting the World Trade Center. “We all just stood there and stared,” Charley said. “We could not wrap our heads around it…we could not figure out how planes were being used as weapons.”
Patty and Ellie’s flight to New York was re-directed to Gander, Newfoundland in Canada. Along with 11,000 other passengers and an untold number of planes. No one was told of the extent of the terror, so rumors were abundant.
They were kept on the plane on the runway for 30 hours until the tiny town and its mayor figured out what to do with this invasion .
Eventually, city workers were called back from a strike they were having and busses, vans, and trucks arrived to take passengers to fire halls and schools where cots had been set up.
“I just didn’t experience the horror and drama the people back home had,” Patty said. “We didn’t know what happened.” Patty said she kept thinking it has to be an accident because “You couldn’t target something like that.”
She said the airport authorities kept “stringing” the passengers along finally said the US air space was closed.
The whole community came together to welcome the strangers. The main port of call was the local Walmart where the stranded passengers were able to purchase necessary toiletries and a clean change of clothes. Some of the local residents took passengers into their homes and offered showers for them.
The entire affair lasted from Tuesday until Saturday when flights began leaving for US soil.
Patty had managed, in the meantime, to become an honorary Newfie. She had to kiss a fish and drink a “strange concoction.”
Some of the passengers were so grateful to the hospitality of the residents of Newfoundland that they set up a scholarship for the local children and to this day, many are able to go to college from these scholarships. Just a small silver cloud in one of the worst attacks in American History.
Charley Risby said as the plane was landing in Cincinnati the passenger all started singing God Bless America.
She said although it was a horrifying experience, the flight crew during the 30 hours on the runway as well as the residents of Newfoundland were very great and very helpful. She said when they all arrived back to Cincinnati everyone on the plane knew each other. “It was an adventure,” Charley said. “It was surreal.”
“I was…right here here at the fire station,” 28 year Firefighter veteran and Portsmouth assistant fire chief Travis Garrett said. “We watched it unfold…on the tv that morning inside the conference room. We didn’t know what was happening, just like everyone else, we had no idea.”
Garrett said it has made firefighters more apprehensive about what is going on and still provide the same quality service with fire and rescue that the residents deserve.
When asked if 9-11 has changed his life personally, Garrett said it has to a certain degree. “We still have a lot of soldiers…still fighting the battle today,” he said. “It has changed me personally because I worry about those people. I’ve watched them grow up.”
He said the fire department learned from the attack saying “it has changed the whole world.” He said the 344 men and women firefighters who perished would do it again. “I believe 100 percent they would do it over again.”
Garrett said he agrees when he hears Ground Zero described as the Hallo ground and the Holy Ground. “The next two towers are just a little taller than the other two were,” he said. “We’re Americans, we’re going to fight this battle and make it happen.”
Allen Journey has been a Nile Township fire fighter for almost five decades. He has served for 47 years, saying when the alarm sounds he’s ready to go no matter what the severity. Journey said a couple years ago, he was faced with the unfortunate task of placing his own father in a body bag when he was found deceased at his home. “I told them I would do it,” Journey said.
Journey said he was watching television on 9-11. “It was pretty sad…,” he said. “something different.”
He said it is a good thing we don’t have any tall buildings like the World Trade Center. He said the local fire department try to get help now so only two or three volunteer fireman aren’t trying to battle a fire alone. “There’s good runs and bad runs,” Journey said. “You just have to deal with them.”
Journey said he has “broken my back and everything else,” but said as long as his health will allow he will stay on the department and “do the best that I can.”
Denver Triggs said he was a jailer at the Scioto County Jail when the terrorists attacked the US on 9-11. He said it has changed law enforcement and how they do their job, but said we as a nation are strong and will survive. Triggs is now a part of the security team at the Scioto County Courthouse screening visitors at the entrance.
Becky Sosby, owner of Party Connection in Portsmouth, said she was attending class at DayMar College in New Boston when the attacks happened. She said she heard about the attacks while on break. “I remember going home and watching it on tv,” Sosby said. “That’s where I was.”
Sosby said as a whole everyone was affected by the horrific events that unfolded on that September day. She said she had to get a passport to go on vacation to Canada. Before the attacks a trip to Canada was just crossing the border.
She said she will be watching the 9-11 special on the History Channel tonight to recollect the events 18 years ago today.
Sosby was able to visit New York City in 2015. She said she went to Ground Zero and got to see where it all took place. “It was just surreal,” Sosby said shaking her head.
When the Risbys finally landed in Cincinnati Patty said 100s of people were there screaming and cheering. Patty Risby said “They were just glad to see their people were back.”
Reach Mark Richard at 740-370-0707, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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