Remembering shock, disbelief, horror
Fifteen years have passed since the United States was attacked by terrorists. The date was Sept. 11, 2001; and if you were old enough to understand what was going on that day, it’s a date that is most likely seared into your memory.
On 9/11 (the shorthand name for that tragic day), four coordinated terrorist attacks were carried out by al-Qaeda, an Islamist extremist group. These attacks killed 2,977 people at the World Trade Center in New York City; 189 at the Pentagon in Arlington, Va.; and 45 people on Flight 93, which was hijacked and crashed into an empty field in western Pennsylvania.
The following article, written by former editor Tom Crawford, was front page news of the Staples World on Sept. 13, 2001. It was entitled, “U.S. Attacked; Tragic news turns to shock, disbelief, horror.”
The tragedy that the United States managed to avoid for over 30 years of world wide terrorist attacks finally occurred Tuesday, September 11, 2001.
In a coordinated and highly successful attack, terrorists hijacked four commercial airliners, crashed two of them into New York City’s World Trade Center, one into the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. and one into a Pennsylvania farm field.
The twin towers of the World Trade Center, hit about 18 minutes apart by jets fully laden with jet fuel, collapsed just minutes after the massive explosions.
Approximately 252 passengers were aboard the four planes, with 37 crew members. Late Tuesday afternoon there was no word on the number of people killed or injured in the buildings hit, but casualties were estimated to approach 10,000 killed and/or injured. A reported 50,000 people worked in the two 110-story towers of the Trade Center.
The four planes, three bound for Los Angeles, one for San Francisco, took off from Boston and Newark. Air traffic controllers and radar tracked them making sharp turns and going off their normal courses, but were not able to put out an alarm in time.
People around Staples flocked to television sets and radios shortly after 9 a.m. Tuesday as word spread of the first attack. Shock turned into disbelief and total horror as each new bit of news was aired.
None were more concerned than the parents of two commercial airline pilots.
Two families in Staples made some very quick and urgent phone calls Tuesday morning to learn where their pilot children were. Marv Giza called his son’s home to learn that Sun County Airlines first officer Mark Giza had just flown out of New York early that morning. Later they learned his flight had been diverted, first to Canada, then to Michigan.
Barb Schmitt had similar concerns about her daughter, Marnie (Schmitt) Loftis, a first officer flying 737’s out of Chicago’s O’Hare Airport for United Airlines. (Two of the hijacked planes were United flights).
“When I heard that a 737 had hit the World Trade Center, my heart just dropped. I went right to the phone. No one answered right away, but her husband later called back,” the relieved mother said.
She learned Marnie had flown out of Syracuse, N.Y. about 8 a.m. on a flight to Chicago. She also learned Marnie was on the ground, much to her relief.
Harriet Dent of Staples compared the news to another fateful day, Dec. 7, 1941. “It’s just like Pearl Harbor,” she said Tuesday afternoon at the Staples Dairy Queen. Sixty years ago, the young bride was concerned about her husband and her unborn child, Kathy. This week, her thoughts turned to her grandson, Kathy’s son, who works a few blocks from the World Trade Center.
He called on his cell phone to his dad in Little Falls. The terse message was, “I’m okay. We’re being evacuated.” That was the end of the call.
Students on the Staples campus of Central Lakes College used terms like:
“We’re looking at World War III,”
“Never been attacked inland before,”
“Scary as hell!”
“Look at all these young guys around here. Will they be here this time next year?” a student asked.
“Unbelievable, insane,” were words used by Cisco Mullins, an ex-military man now of Staples, speaking at Doc Sully’s in Staples Tuesday noon.
At a Greater Staples Hospital employee lounge, several workers were discussing what motivates suicide pilots such as these while watching the news.
At the Dairy Queen, Bill Mennis observed that it could be a long time before the American people have the confidence to fly again.
Shock, disbelief, horror. And too many questions.