Readers recall day of horror

NOT IMPLEMENTED

September 11, 2002 

I was at work in Kent, where I am a customer service rep for a major electronics company. A customer in New Jersey was placing an order and let out a big scream. I asked what was a matter and she told me about the first plane that hit. As we were talking, the second plane crashed. I stayed on the phone with the customer, because she was crying and very upset. I had a little TV at my desk and everyone started coming to see what was going on.

BARBARA TURNER, FIRCREST

My husband was terminally ill with cancer and was being transported to St. Clare for some tests. The ambulance crew arrived just as I realized what had happened and I ran in to tell my husband. It was a pretty stressful couple days at the hospital. My husband rarely showed emotion or sadness while he was sick, but he was crying once and looked at me with tears running down his face and said, "I just feel so terrible for those poor people." I thought how ironic, you're here dying and you think of someone else first. But, that was the kind of fellow he was.

JANET COYLE, SPANAWAY

My husband and I were at Sea-Tac Airport with tickets in hand and luggage on the plane, waiting to go on our 10th wedding anniversary trip to Hawaii. We found out the news via the nearby TV in the bar. Eventually all passengers were to pick up all their luggage from the carousels. After one hour, no cars were let in for pickup, and we had to walk to the highway for our ride. Three days later we did take our trip. We had the entire floor to ourselves. Fighter jets patrolled the skies and Navy ships cruised the horizon at all times. The Sept. 11 airline tickets were our piece of history, but how sad that it was for the reasons that they were.

PATTY HOLYAN, SOUTH PRAIRIE

I was sitting at work. I'd come in early in hopes of having an early evening celebration with my husband for his birthday. I saw a headline on TV, "Plane Hits Twin Tower." I was shocked and wondered, "Is this real?" I called home to wake my husband, one to say, "Happy birthday" and secondly to let him know what I had just read. He turned on the news just in time to see the second plane hit.

I was pregnant at the time and felt as if our futures were in question. What was next? I wasn't sure what to do - run home, stay at work or just simply pray.

Needless to say there was no celebrating that evening. Our eyes were glued to the TV along with explaining to our 6-year-old the best we could what had just happened. She had questions I could not answer - the whys, the whos and the tomorrows.

AMY WHITSON, TACOMA

This date has very significant meaning to me. Three years prior, my sister and her three children were murdered. On Sept. 11, 2001, I was lying in bed and the phone rang as it did three years earlier. My ex-wife told me to turn on TV. It was quite an emotional day for me. I sat there totally numb and still had to go to the cemetery and visit my sister's grave.

WES ELMORE, TACOMA

I was serving breakfast to the children and my husband was watching TV while getting ready for work. He said, "Sandy come here," and the second airplane was flying into the World Trade Center. We were stunned. It looked so unreal. We let the children watch and explained what was happening and tried to give them some guidance. They are always afraid when they see things like that because Daddy is in the military. We assured them everything was OK with Dad, and they went to school. My husband and I went off to work, and several employees got together and watched TV, cried and prayed. We found out later that a friend of ours was killed in the Pentagon.

SANDY WATSON, TACOMA

I was watching the news before I left to go to school. I told my parents about it, and they couldn't believe it. On the way to school we heard on the radio the Pentagon was hit. When I got to school I was pretty much the only one that knew about it, and no one believed me. They thought I was just joking, so we turned on the TV and there it was.

JESSE LAMORA, SPANAWAY

My wife and I were on our first cruise, celebrating our 35th wedding anniversary in the Caribbean. We were going to breakfast when the elevator opened and we ran into people that were crying and screaming. They told us a plane had hit the World Trade Center. We went to a deck that had two large TVs with CNN showing the first plane replay. We saw the second plane come in live and hit the second tower. We were just devastated by what happened. Our cruise continued and when we were escorted into Fort Lauderdale by a Navy destroyer, we knew things were bad in the U.S. It felt great to step on American soil.

JERRY OBURST, UNIVERSITY PLACE

I got a phone call around 6 a.m. from my neighbor, telling me to turn on the news. I called my mom, who lives in Arizona, and told her to turn on the news. After being horrified and mesmerized by the TV for two hours, I turned it off and decided I was going to spend the rest of the day volunteering at my children's school so I could be close to them if something more horrible happened.

JENNIFER THOMPSON, SPANAWAY

It was going to be a bad day. The health of Duke, my 13-year-old black Labrador, was deteriorating more each day. I was up and down several times during the wee hours of Sept. 11, checking on him while he was having difficulties. He was having breathing problems and I knew the time had come for me to make the final decision about euthanasia.

I had been putting off making that decision because I just couldn't quite let go. He had been the love of my life and my best friend since the day I rescued him from the Tacoma-Pierce County Humane Society in 1990.

At some time I called my workplace, leaving a voice mail message to say I would not be in to work. I had made the decision: Today was going to be Duke's last day on earth. Crying, I brushed him, held him close and told him how much I loved him. He seemed to know and cuddled next to me on the floor.

After a while, I turned on the "Today" show to pass the time until the veterinarian's office opened and I could call for an appointment to take Duke in for euthanasia. The TV screen lit up with a picture of smoke coming from the twin towers. While I watched, one of the buildings fell. For the rest of the day my eyes never left the terrible scene on TV. I cried and cried by the scenes of destruction and knowing people had died en masse. I hadn't cried as much since JFK died in 1963.

The day passed in a blink of an eye. It was about 7 p.m. before I came out of my TV-induced trance. Duke had perked up. I had not made the call to the vet. Not that day.

Life was so precious for me and my dog. A few days later we left for a blessed vacation on the Oregon Coast, his favorite place. It wasn't a time to consider euthanasia. Not yet.

KATHY CALLAHAN, WAUNA

I had traveled from my home in Lyon, France, to Paris to meet with one of my customers. After lunch, one guy, an Iranian named Siamand, said to me in French: "Hey, Steve, a plane just crashed into the World Trade Center." No biggie, I thought, just some out-of-control Cessna. A few minutes later, he told me about the second plane and said both were Boeings. We tried to connect to Yahoo, The New York Times, whatever we could get, but the Internet was jammed. By this time, my work had become secondary, and almost everyone in the 150-employee computer hardware firm was trying to get more info.

Finally someone had the presence of mind to install a TV/video card on one of the computers. When we eventually got reception what we saw was chilling: On the fuzzy black-and-white computer screen we watched as Peter Jennings commented on the second plane slamming into World Trade Center 2. Both towers had collapsed, he later said. At this point, silence filled the room. There was nothing left to say.

As I took the train back home that night I tried to get in contact with my wife (she was very shaken, as her parents had flown to the East Coast the day before). She'd heard about what had happened but to protect our 4-year-old-daughter, Julie, hadn't yet turned on the TV. I tried to call my family in Tacoma on my cell phone, but all incoming lines were jammed. A message, in French, explained, "Due to exceptional circumstances in the United States, your call cannot be completed as dialed."

STEPHEN MARTIN, FORMERLY OF UNIVERSITY PLACE

I'm a retired social service worker and counselor, and one of the worst things that day and for weeks afterward was a feeling of uselessness. There was nothing I could do to help anybody! I wanted to go to New York or to the Pentagon, someplace where there were victims, and just hold them, comfort them in some way, do something.

When I was able to donate blood a few weeks later I allowed myself to break down and cry. But I felt I'd been able to do something to help, however small it may have been.

KATIE HOLLAND, TACOMA

I was on vacation on the isle of Arran off the coast of Scotland. In the early evening my friend and I encountered two women who, like myself, were Scots resident in the United States. One said to me, "Did you hear the news from the States?" My first thought was that we'd either had another earthquake in Washington or that Mount Rainier had blown up. I could only think it had to be a natural calamity of proportions great enough to make the news in Scotland.

She told me two planes had attacked twin towers in New York. We hurried back to the boarding house and watched the scenes of the towers being attacked over and over again.

The next day all the local papers were filled with the news. Local churches held services and a corner of George Square in Glasgow was cordoned off so that flowers and mementos in honor of the September dead could be placed there. A day later at a restaurant in the Highlands the manager asked us to observe a moment of silence for the tragedy.

Getting home was a concern as they'd closed the airports, but they opened them again a day before I left. The airports were filled with thousands who had had to delay their flights and go on standby.

Our pilot announced that he wasn't going to let anyone take over his plane, and when we landed safely everyone applauded.

MOIRA EICHOLTZ, LAKEWOOD

The telephone rang about 7 a.m., an unusual time for it to ring. When I answered I found a very concerned, scared Japanese boy named Kota on the other end, asking if we had seen the news report on TV. Kota had visited us the month before as a part of a Japanese exchange program. We rushed to find out what he was talking about and assured him we were all well. It was about then that the second plane hit. The remainder of the day was spent glued to the television, crying and praying.

DANA HETTMAN, SUMNER

I was in a tourist shop called Eden in Iceland when I heard the news of the World Trade Center. I had the feeling I should be home with my countrymen and missed the feel of the nation pulling together. The next morning, as we were pulling out from the hotel, one of the others on the bus commented, "There go the flags." Sure enough, all of Iceland's flags in every city we stopped at for the rest of the week were flying at half-staff. And it was in honor of all the victims from other countries. Iceland didn't lose any citizens, as far as I know.

SUE BOGGS, TACOMA

On Sept. 10, 2001, my wife, Sherry, came home from her job about 10:30 p.m. and called my daughter, Stephanie, who lived on the other side of the state, to check on her due date. Stephanie said she believed her labor had started. My wife said, "Let's get over there now."

When we pulled into the apartment complex in Pullman I asked my son-in-law, John, how things were going, expecting him to tell me how her labor was progressing.

I will never forget his reply. "Well, the World Trade Center is gone, and the Pentagon is in flames."

To me this seemed implausible, and my wife thought he was joking to alleviate the tensions that were building with the impending birth.

When we arrived at their apartment and greeted our daughter, who was doing fine, we couldn't believe what the TV was showing us. I got so angry I felt like I had been hit in the stomach by some unknown bully.

I told my daughter, "Whatever you do, don't have the baby today! This is going to be a day you won't want to remember!"

The Lord blessed us, and our granddaughter, Liberty, was born the next day, Sept. 12, at 3:41 p.m.

WALLACE DUBBERLY, MILTON

Our dad was scheduled for carotid artery surgery at the veterans hospital in Fargo, N.D., at 7 a.m. on Sept. 11. My sister, Iris, had driven from Colorado and I'd come from Tacoma to take our parents to Fargo the day before. Mom, Iris and I were having breakfast when the TV news said a plane had struck the World Trade Center. We were horrified for the people on all the upper levels.

When we got to the hospital our world was concentrating on Dad because he was a high surgical risk. We were escorted to the waiting room, where the news was on. A nurse came out about an hour later and told us the doctor would not allow anyone in the operating room to speak of the incident or have anyone give any updates - everyone was to concentrate on the work at hand.

We watched transfixed and fought tears all day as our fellow Americans lived out the tragedy. Everything we observed made our concerns seem so small compared to what others were experiencing that terrible day. The enormous U.S. flag at the hospital increased our patriotic beliefs, and we felt more reassurance and pride immediately, as though it was our main connection to these people suffering on the opposite shore of our country - that their suffering was not theirs alone, but ours as a nation.

I called my husband, Tony, who is also a veteran, when Dad got out of surgery and was OK. He'd been having breakfast at Shari's when he heard the news and had to come home immediately. I know few people could find an appetite that day.

REBECCA TOMAL, VIA E-MAIL

I am in the Air Force, serving our great nation at McChord Air Force Base. On Sept. 11, I was asleep in Korea when my wife, Teri, at McChord called and told me to get to a TV. I talked to my wife for about 15 minutes and told her I would watch and call her back.

For the next two hours many of my fellow airmen gathered around TVs in each other's rooms, break areas and restaurants. Many of us remained in a state of shock, horror and disbelief as the cameras caught the tragedy unfolding. Many tears filled eyes but were held back by pride and uncertainty of what recourse of action was next to come.

That morning our base went into high alert and we were preparing for defensive action. Being so far away from my family and wanting to help out closer to home made things hard. Many of the conversations were about Pearl Harbor and how we were attacked back then with so many U.S. citizens and military losing their lives. The loss of life that day was so great that everyone in America cried.

DAVID R. CLUBB, MCCHORD AIR FORCE BASE

My wife and I had planned to take our youngest two children to the Puyallup Fair. I had taken the day off from my work, in physical therapy, but had to go see one patient. The patient's television was on and as I worked with the patient I slowly began to understand what I was hearing and seeing. Numbness kind of set in as I finished the session.

I called my wife and we decided we should not cancel our plans, since both our children were under 8. It was eerie to be having a seemingly good time with a crisis so devastating happening 3,000 miles away. Later, when I heard Alan Jackson sing "When the World Stopped Turning," I cried, recalling what I was doing that morning - "driving down a long lonely highway."

RAY GRAY, PARKLAND

I was stealing some extra sleep when I was roused by my phone ringing. My step-mother is not prone to hysteria, so I could tell by her voice that something was wrong. She told me terrorists had crashed planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. My brother, who lives and works in New York City, had managed to call before the lines jammed up to tell the family he was OK.

I immediately tried to call my mother, who lives in Washington, D.C., but the lines were busy. I was sure she must be OK, but when something like this happens, the only proof that's worth anything is hearing your loved one's voice!

I finally reached my brother on his cell phone. He was OK, but practically incoherent. The only facts I could get from him were that he was thinking of enlisting in the Armed Forces and going to give blood. I told him donating blood was a great idea, but maybe he should pause a day or two before enlisting.

I used e-mail and occasionally working cell phones to confirm that my mom was OK, and let the family know everyone was well.

KATI IRONS, TACOMA

I had taken my 16-year-old daughter to Sea-Tac Airport so she could fly to Ohio for the annual synchronized swimming convention. Her plane had taken off moments before the first attack. I was driving home when I heard about it on the radio. When I got home and turned on the TV I realized it was not an accident. When they announced they were bringing all of the aircraft out of the sky, I had no idea where my daughter was going. She called me about 7:40 a.m. to tell me they had brought her back to Seattle after flying for about 1 1/2 hours. I was very thankful!

TAMI BENDICK, TACOMA

I think of Sept. 11 as the day the Creator cried with us and for us. I can only imagine the millions of prayers sent to him that day, beseeching his help, his intervention, and knowing he answered all those prayers and with most the answer was "I can't help." Prayers in thousands of languages, calling him by hundreds of different names. And the grief for his children magnified by the fact that some had used his name to justify their terrible act.

STORM REYES, TACOMA

Waking up at 8:30 a.m. I turned on the TV. As I was changing channels, I skipped past Channel 13, but something caught my eye. So I went back and saw the Pentagon burning. The caption said, "America Under Attack." This scared me, so I turned to CNN, which mentioned that the twin towers were gone. I told my mother we were under attack. She thought at first that I was joking.

After this, I logged onto the Internet and tried to find out more. I was unable to view the major American or Canadian news Web sites, so I had to view the Web sites for Radio-Canada (the French counterpart of CBC), Avui (a Catalan-language newspaper), The Philippine Inquirer, The News Tribune and other international news organizations. I was extremely curious about the whole world's take on this.

I spent most of the day online, visiting message boards, sorting through my e-mail and chatting with friends and relatives. I was sent e-mail about hijacked planes on their way to Seattle, the infamous Nostradamus quatrain and "tricks" that supposedly predicted the attacks - among other rumors and nonsense. In the background I listened to radio personalities whose tone-downed attitudes were a far cry from their usual shock-jock label. I also flipped between the various local network news programs and CNN.

Later that day, I ventured into town to see how other residents were taking the news.

CHRISTOPHER SUNDITA, EATONVILLE

I honestly don't know what I was doing when the Sept. 11 terrorism occurred. I did not hear about the devastation until several days later. My travel partner and I were hiking in the Luangwa Valley in Zambia. The radios were down due to a broken repeater. We returned to the base lodge and were told by the manager in a thick Australian-African accent that there was a "bit of a problem" in New York City.

We didn't think too much of it until a few more days later when we returned to the capital, Lusaka, and saw the news for the first time in 10 days. It is mild to say that we were in shock and horrified by what had happened in our country.

Numerous people that heard us speaking with an American accent would stop us in the streets, markets and airports to offer us their sympathy. Somehow this made our journey back home much easier.

TINA HUTCHISON, TACOMA

I always have the news on when I get ready for work but don't pay too much attention. I heard something about a plane crash in New York, but didn't know any of the details. On my way to work, I still felt nothing out of the ordinary. However, as a soldier stationed at Fort Lewis, I knew something was out of the ordinary when I got caught in a huge standstill at the gate. (I later found out the post threat level had gone up to Delta, which is considered the highest state of alert.) I turned the radio on and realized our country had potentially come under attack.

I was totally stunned, shocked, scared and angry. I was also five months pregnant, so I was even more emotional. I finally made it to work a bit before noon. (I left my house at 8:40 a.m. to make it to work at 9.) The people looked like zombies, just totally in shock. Some people didn't even come to work, and nobody cared. We all ended up going home early, because it was just too hard to concentrate and get any work done.

NAOMI RANKINS, LAKEWOOD

On Sept. 10, my then 9-year-old grandson, Joey, spent the night with me. The next morning I turned on the television and was only half listening as I was preparing Joey's breakfast. My son, Bill, called to see if I'd heard what was happening. I said no. He then told me.

I ran in to wake my grandson and turned on his TV. In shock, I told him he was witnessing history, and explained what little I knew at the time. We had a discussion about it, because I knew his teacher would be talking about it in class.

When I drove Joey to school I was stopped by a police officer for speeding. Joey and I had been discussing the tragedy and I was not paying full attention to my speed. The officer only verbally disciplined me, probably because of the day's events. I remained home that day, closely following the news story, and having a hard time, emotionally, dealing with a senseless act of violence.

Joey and I will always have a special bond because we were together that morning. And I'm grateful that we were.

LOIS KULJIS-PIERCY, TACOMA

I was with my daughter in Seattle, giving her a hand while she recovered from three herniated discs. I woke at 6:30 a.m. to the familiar voice of Katie Couric. It was too early for "Today," so I went to see why she was on. We watched the unfolding events for days afterward.

I lived in New York City as a child and during my first marriage. My daughter has a friend there and visits regularly. There's no place like it - amazingly stimulating, exhausting and alive.

Now, even with terrorism in its many guises, I can still muster the enthusiasm needed to take a small hand, go to a park and talk about the parts of a flower, but not without a new paranoid need to watch our backs.

M.K. CHANDLER LAMB, LAKEWOOD

I was at home and received a phone call from my husband, who told me to turn on the TV. I turned on the television and never turned it off that day. I could not believe what I was seeing. I remember thinking of my father, who was awarded two Silver Stars in Korea and was killed there. I remember saying to myself, "Daddy, is this starting again?" I remember getting phone calls, but I couldn't tell you who called.

My husband is a retired assistant fire chief and I was a fire department dispatcher, so the horror had a double impact on us. It was a helpless feeling thinking there was nothing we could do. We prayed for our brother and sister firefighters, civilians, our country and president.

MARGARETE E. CURTIS-BLAUVELT, TACOMA

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