Remembering Sept. 11, 2001
Greg Hayes, Penny LeLeux and Darla Diagle contributed to this story.
It’s a moment time that many will never forget. On Sept. 11, 2001, a shadow was cast over America as thousands of people watched the worst terror attack on America, killing over 3,000 people.
At 8:45 a.m., the first plane crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center. At 9:03 a.m., the second plane crashed into the south tower. A third plane crashed into the Pentagon at 9:43 a.m. The south tower of the World Trade Center collapsed at 10:05 a.m.; the north tower collapsed at 10:28 a.m.
United Airline Flight 93 from Newark, New Jersey en route San Francisco, Calif., crashed in Shanksville, Penn. Less than an hour into the flight, the Flight 93 suddenly changed course, heading in the direction of Washington D.C. It was believed that this plane was headed for the White House. When we thought all hope was lost, a story of ultimate heroism came to light.
A cockpit voice recorder revealed several passengers and crew members attempted to take back the hijacked plane. At 10:10 a.m., Flight 93 crashed in a meadow near Shanksville, Penn., destroying the plane and instantly killing all on board.
We watched as innocent lives were lost, we watched as buildings came crashing down, and we watched as the dust finally settled down to show complete and utter devastation. But we also watched as fire departments, police men and women, volunteers and complete strangers came together to search for people buried in the rubble.
Orange County resident Rick Singer was enjoying a day of golf and relaxation when he first learned about the events of September 11th. At first, he wasn’t sure what to think.
“My friend and I had just played nine holes at Bayou Den and we went back to the clubhouse to take a break,” Singer said. “We saw the footage of the plane hitting the first World Trade Center tower on a TV. At first, we thought it was just a joke, a hoax being played. No one knew about the Pentagon attack or the attempt on the White House (Flight 93) yet.”
Singer said that he and his friend went out to play another three rounds, but didn’t feel right.
“It was a really strange feeling, so we went back to the clubhouse,” he said. “We watched the footage of the attacks and the buildings come down. At that moment, we knew we were at war, but we just didn’t know who with as we had not even heard about al Qaeda or who they were at that time.”
Singer said that the day of relaxation was over and he left and headed for home.
“It was surreal,” he said. “I was wanting to get home and check on my family and at the same time I was worried that someone might try to attack chemical row.”
Singer said that when he learned of Osama Bin Laden’s death in Pakistan earlier this year, he was glad that justice was served.
“Having served in the Navy (1976-79), I’m glad it was the Seals that got him,” he said. “I’m glad that they buried him at sea too. The more details that came out about the raid, and him hiding behind his wife? I’m glad that we got to see what a coward he really was.”
Butch Campbell, director of security and external relations at Lamar State College-Orange, said that the atmosphere at the campus was one of shock and solemnness that fateful day, ten years ago this Sunday.
“My dad had called me here at work and told me to turn the news on,” Campbell said. “I went over to the library and turned a TV to a news station. As information trickled in, the mood here was just solemn and minutes seemed like hours. The closest I can remember this kind of feeling was when President Kennedy was assassinated in 1963. The campus had that same type of feeling, as it was just eerily quiet.
“Fewer and fewer cars were in the parking lot as people just started going home.”
Campbell said that he feels a lot changed that day, not just for the nation but for people’s personal lives.
“It was probably one of the most significant changes I’ve witnessed,” he said. “People were wanting to find their families, check with them, make sure they were okay.”
Mauriceville resident Tena English said that she was at work at Golden Triangle Telephone Directory in Beaumont when she and her colleagues heard the news.
“The phones started ringing and people started calling in,” she said. “We didn’t have a TV so one of my co-workers went home and got one to bring up there.”
English said that she remembers feeling terrified as she watched the events unfold.
“There was a church next door to our office and we noticed that people were going there in the middle of the day so we went across to it,” she said. “Even with the number of people, it was total silence in that place.
“I’ll never forget it as long as I live.”
Pearl Burgess, 90, poet laureate in Orange said “I was at home. The television was on and it came on. I liked to have dropped dead. I got on the phone and started calling everybody. I said, ‘The terrorists have struck.’ I said, ‘What we should do is pray for everybody, so it won’t kill so many people’. I knew it was going to be [horrific.] We better be careful from then, now and the future. It’s coming. You know it is.
“That day I remember when it was on television. I looked at the airplanes and saw that other airplane when it fell and that man said, ‘It’s going down and I love you, don’t forget I love you.” He was talking to his wife. I remember that. It was so vivid. It will always stay in your memory, it really will.”
Brenda Ellender, of Bridge City, said “my Mother was born on 9-11-29, I was on the telephone driving to my office wishing her a Happy Birthday and talking with her about our fun at her family party the previous weekend.
“She told me it looked like something terrible had just happened in New York and I felt certain I could get explanations as soon as I reached my desk that would alleviate her deep concerns.
Instead, my concerns increased as the reality of actual terrorist attacks on our American soil had to be realized. We were facing the horror of a national tragedy to the scale of Pearl Harbor or greater…an all new chapter of American History was opened and the world we had known would never be the same!
“It is amazing now to hear so many stories told of close calls and near escapes such as transit officials being able to re-route even the subways that protected thousands of more people who would have been crushed under the towers. I was so proud of Americans that day and today with the inspiring reconstruction of the World Trade Center and beautiful Memorial site!”
Kayla Veillon, a seventh grader at Bridge City Middle School, was in yearbook class when her teacher heard the news and turned on the television.
“I wasn’t really sure what to think about the situation at the time partially due to just being young and also being shocked that something like that could actually happen in my own country,” Veillon said. “We watched for a few moments as the event unfolded and then my teacher turned off the TV and the class observed a moment of silence for those involved in the attacks. I remember looking out the window to see and hear multiple military helicopters fly over the school.”
Heather Beck Myers, from Orange, was getting ready to go to work at Lamar and turned on the TV.
“I instantly saw the planes hitting the buildings. The best way I could describe what I felt is that I was shocked and saddened. Now everything has changed. Everything is different and will be for my children.”
Ten years seems like a long time, but to others the wounds are still fresh.
Check the Community Bulletin Board for 9/11 Remembrance services to be held around Orange County.