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Where Were You on 9/11?

Happen' Haven Ross

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September 11 of 2001 started as the average Tuesday morning for most. People were going to jobs and meetings, and children were starting a new school day. It was business as usual in the Home of the Brave. At 8:45, a hijacked American Airlines plane crashed into the World Trade Center’s North Tower in New York City. News and radio stations began covering the event, which was believed by many to be an accident. At 9:03, amid the confusion and fear, a United Airlines plane hit the South Tower of the World Trade Center. News of the attacks began to spread, and it was evident that these plane crashes were not by accident. The third of four attacks took place in Washington DC. The Pentagon was struck by American Airlines flight 77 around 9:45. The country was enveloped in fear. Why were these attacks happening, and how many more were to come? As all flights were grounded, friends and families desperately tried contacting their loved ones. As passengers on a hijacked flight to California learned of the other attacks, they tried to overtake the hijackers, which led to the hijackers crashing the plane in a field in Pennsylvania.The attacks were over, but the effects on people’s lives and the spirit of America still remains today. It was the first major terrorist attack in America. The world lost 2,996 people, and it was hard for most of the population to feel safe again after such an unexpected tragedy. Though we learn about it as a part of our history in school today, adults remember it as a fairly recent part of their lives. Here are some accounts from RMA’s friends and faculty members of the terrorist attacks on 9/11.

 

Mr. Stancavish

I was working at Bloomberg News in Princeton, New Jersey. I was in a newsroom surrounded by large-screen TVs. When the first plane hit, I remember the anchor on the TV speculating that it was a small commuter plane that had crashed into the tower. Then the second plane hit. Then reports came in that a plane had hit the Pentagon. One of the women I worked with started crying. There was a very clear sense that something was very wrong in America and no one knew the extent of it. That was the scary part. No one knew where or when it would end.

I grew up in the shadow of the World Trade Center towers. I miss seeing them when I travel north.

 

Mr. Leonard

I had an audition in New York on September 8th, so I decided to make a long weekend of it and invited a friend to join me.  It was a great weekend (even though I did not get the gig).  We wanted to stay longer but we each had to get back home for work.  On Tuesday morning, I was driving into Boston for work when I heard about the first plane.  I didn’t think much of it because the reports coming in were very sparse. By the time I got to work, the second plane hit and we all knew this was a serious event.  Our office closed shortly after we got there and so did most others in town.  Traffic was at a standstill trying to get out of the city.  This is when I learned that the Pentagon was hit.  I have many friends and family in the DC area so I was extremely worried about them.  Unfortunately, all of the communication systems were off line and I couldn’t reach my family for about 12 hours.  By the time I got home, the towers had fallen and the fourth plane had crashed in Pennsylvania.  All I could do was watch the news in disbelief.

One thing that sticks in my mind is the silence.  Boston was quiet when I was driving home, no loud noises or cars honking horns, which is very unusual for this town.  Also they grounded all air traffic for a couple of days so there was no noise from the airport. That silence hung in the air over the city for a while. Since two of the planes took off from Logan airport in Boston, there were many stories about locals that were on those planes.  This was one of those things that showed how far reaching this tragedy was.

 

Mrs. Stone

I was at my allergy doctor’s office in England when I first heard about the Twin Towers in NY.  The day after, my father called to tell me a dear friend, who was a pilot, was on the plane which crashed into The Pentagon.

Mrs. Stone’s good friend, David Charlesbois, was one of the three pilots on the American Airlines plane. The two met at church in Rocky Mount while David was earning flying hours working for Guardian Corporation. After taking a job in Newport, David returned to Rocky Mount to fly for Hardee’s. He finally achieved enough hours to work for American Airlines, and his new base was in Washington DC. He passed away at 39, and he was doing what he loved most.

 

Ms. Covolo

On 9/11, I was at work at Englewood Elementary School. I was the assistant principal there at the time, and two of my children were also there in second grade. When we heard about the crash into the first tower that morning, we assumed it was an awful accident. I was scheduled to attend a meeting in Nashville with my principal that day, so we left campus together a few minutes after the first crash. On the way to the meeting, we were listening to the news on the radio, and that is when we received the report of the second crash. I will never forget that feeling. We turned the car around and went back to school. Like everyone else, we were worried that there may be more to come – and no one knew where additional attacks might take place. I was fortunate that I was able to go and hug my own children on the way back in to work. Being there with all the children and the faculty in the safety of our school provided comfort to us all as we followed the rest of the day’s events on the news and began to process what had really happened that day and what it would mean to our future.

 

Mrs. Davis

I joined Rocky Mount Academy in August 2001, and on September 11th ,  I was still learning the basics of my new job responsibilities. I remember that Tuesday morning very well. I was in the front office when Mrs. Stevens, the wife of our former headmaster, called to tell us that an airplane had crashed into the World Trade Center.  As a former New York resident, she was very distraught and worried about friends and family who lived near the crash site. Over the next few minutes as tragedy continued to strike, I felt very afraid.  A year later, I was very fortunate to plan a ladies retreat at my church with the featured speaker, Mrs. Cheryl McGuinness, the wife of Tom McGuinness, co-pilot of AA Flight 11 which crashed into the World Trade Center. She spoke of how she started her day with a good-bye kiss to Tom, a cup of coffee, and her daily devotional reading. Only a few hours later, she received a call from a friend who asked if she had seen the news of the hijacking. She began to call Tom’s cell phone only to receive his voice mail, and after leaving numerous messages, she received the horrible news that it was indeed his plane that was hijacked and later crashed. It was quite an honor to meet such a strong Christian lady who continued to watch Tom’s legacy lived out through her children, who I also had the honor of meeting.

 

Dr. Koszelak

The tragedy occurred the first year I taught at RMA.  I was teaching only one class per day, as I still had my medical practice offices to run.  A student of mine came up to me after my first period class and told me that his Mom had contacted him and said a airplane flew into the World Trade Center.  At that time I was thinking about something like a small aircraft and pilot error.  I left the school when my class was finished and went to the Westridge Post office to pick up my office mail.  While I was there, the Postal Officials had a small TV playing and they told me another large passenger aircraft had flown into the second tower, and that it was apparently a terrorist attack.  I gathered my two sons (ages 12 and 9)  and returned home in a state of disbelief.  We watched the media coverage nonstop.  I talked with friends to make sure everyone was ok.  It took a long time to get back to “normal”.  Air travel was halted for a while, so you wouldn’t see the normal vapor trails of passing aircraft in the sky.  It was eerie.  We were at a football game shortly after the attack and an aircraft (US military) flew overhead.  The stadium was dead silent as everyone held their breath, not knowing if this aircraft was friend or foe.  The realization that we were vulnerable as individuals changed the psyche of many Americans.  That was truly another day in American history that will live in infamy.  Visiting the 911 Museum in NYC and really listening/looking/reading as you walk through makes that day real again, and even those of younger generations can feel the pain our nation felt on that day.  I hope we never feel that pain again.

 

Mr. Varnell

 I’d be happy to share.  We were in St. Petersburg, Russia on September 11, 2001.  Nathan was only eight months old, and James was not yet on his way.  At that time, I was working for Standard Commercial Tobacco Company, based out of Wilson, and we had just started a new factory there a few years earlier.  I was at the office that day and had a scheduled call that afternoon (afternoon due to the 8-hour time difference) with the head office (in Wilson).  When I reached the secretary, she was in a panic and when I asked her what was wrong she said,” Jonathan we are under attack.” I could hear the fear in her voice and my heart sank. I was not sure what to make of it so I asked, “attack by who, what are you talking about?” Then the line went dead.  I started checking the web sites for news on the internet and it was also down. We then got a call from a colleague in the UK office and he told us that America was under attack.  I was the only American at the factory and thought about my family at our home there and wanted to get to them as soon as possible. I called my wife on the way home and told her I was on the way.  At the time, she was at a friend’s home and was not aware of the situation.  I turned on the TV (it was a Russian cable system) and watched the events unfold on CNN.  Nathan was crawling around on the floor in front of the TV and my wife and I just sat and watched in awe.  Later that evening my wife, Nathan and I went to a local orthodox church to pray.

               The next day at the factory I think every Russian employee made it a point to come to my office and offer their condolences. The first one who did it I didn’t think much about it but then when one after the other did it that impressed me.  I didn’t know anyone hurt or killed on 9/11 though as they saw me as representing America at that location I suppose that they wanted to make sure I knew how they felt.  That was special.

               Thereafter I was in a flux as what to do next.  I was prior military and had been out the service for only a short period.  Many of my friends were still in and others who had gotten out were also thinking of rejoining. I called a recruiter back in the US to speak with him about this and he told me the first thing I need to do was to return to the US.  I was under contract for an additional time period with Standard Commercial and did not see this as an option.

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The student news site of Rocky Mount Academy in Rocky Mount, North Carolina.
Where Were You on 9/11?