A missed train, a missing son: Summit County residents recall 9/11
Editor’s note: We recently asked Summit County residents to share with us some thoughts or memories about that fateful day: September 11, 2001. The following are the responses we received.
By Don & Lynne SevereDillonCan we go to the top of the World Trade Center today Gramps?” It was a sunny morning in Bethpage, Long Island, N.Y., on September 11, 2011. Our nine year old grandson, Scott, was with us for a momentous tour of New York City to be followed by several days in the nation’s Capitol.We were in propitious anticipation of sharing this adventure. Scott and I had been in lower Manhattan the day before, 9/10, but the weather was overcast and rainy, preventing a scenic view from the top of the WTC. We settled for a boat trip to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, followed by dinner in the mall at the base of the two WTC buildings before boarding our subway train back to Penn Station. Around 6 p.m., Scott took a picture looking up at one of the WTC towers. Little did we know that it may have been the last picture taken of the standing WTC tower.We were moving a little slow this 9/11 morning, so we missed an earlier Long Island commuter train from Farmingdale Station for the 53-minute ride into Manhattan to connect with the subway train to the WTC. Consequently, we caught the 8:06 train scheduled to arrive at Penn Station around 9 a.m. While on board, Lynne received a cell phone call from a longtime friend who knew of our plans to visit the WTC on this day. Her words were “get off of the train … there is something going on at the WTC.” We were nearing Jamaica Station and elected to get off of the train for the return to Farmingdale. From the platform of Jamaica Station we could see the smoke rising from lower Manhattan.We returned to Bethpage and began remedial planning for what might occur next. This included fueling our vehicle, withdrawing a significant sum of money from a local bank, stocking food and bottled water for what might be a long stay or a run for our lives. No one knew what to expect next … all roads from Long Island were closed to civilian traffic.What do you do with a 9-year-old who barely grasps the severity of the situation? His mother wanted him back home asap. But that was not to be … at least for a couple of days. Grandma Lynne, a native of Long Island, grasped the situation and arranged for visits to old haunts and fun places of her youth.Jones Beach became the spot of serenity for Scott and, to a great extent, for us as well. While building sand castles, we observed U.S. Naval vessels entering the waters off the coast of New York – though their exact purpose was unclear.Common-place sites and locations became suspect to us when we realized that an enemy intent on disabling our nation could easily do so. Power plants, airports, railroads, water sources and highways became targets in our minds as concern for our safety and our future became paramount. Many of those potential targets were around us.As the days passed, the interstate highways were reopened to civilian traffic. We hurriedly left for New Jersey and points west. Sadly, as we crossed the George Washington Bridge over the Hudson River, we looked south to see the smoldering ruins of the WTC. What had once been a skyline trademark of Manhattan was now reduced to ashes, taking with it the lives of nearly 2,800 people. Only days before, on 9/9/01 we had taken many pictures of the Manhattan skyline from the island circle tour boat.As we drove westward from the unbelievable terror of 9/11 we found ourselves near Shanksville, the site of the demise of United Flight 93. Flower arrangements and messages of condolence were everywhere to be seen. Was this stop fate or, simply, coincidence? Of course, we will never know for sure, but it was eerie, to say the least.In our photo album scrapbook of that fateful vacation, we still hold the unused tickets for admittance to the top observation deck of the WTC. Another reminder is the before and after pictures of the WTC taken on 9/09 and 9/11 respectively.Each year, the date 9/11 holds a special meaning for us. As with many others who did not arrive at the WTC early that morning, it was not our time. Providence?
By Maggie ManleyBlue River and Austin, TexasSeptember 11, 2001. A Tuesday morning. My husband and I were sleeping in as we tried to take Tuesday mornings off from our restaurant in Breckenridge. Our telephone rang at 8:10 a.m. – it was my mother calling from Houston. I thought this was strange as she knew we tried to sleep in on Tuesdays and usually did not call this early. She immediately asked me if my son (who was in New York City for training with a major financial firm) was anywhere the World Trade Center. I told her yes, he was IN the World Trade Center, South Tower on the 64th floor. She said she hated to tell us but we needed to turn on our TV. I’ll never forget turning it on and seeing the Twin Towers both burning. The reporters seemed to be talking in hushed, almost reverent tones. One large tear made its way down my face as I stammered “What do I do?” My mother said, “I don’t know. Call his office and pray.” Shortly after we were aware of what was happening and before the first tower fell, I went outside to ask God if He needed my son. Of course, He could have him but please make it quick and, if not, PLEASE help him get out of the building safely. Soon after this, the first tower fell.My husband and I decided to go to the restaurant as we needed to do something besides sit and watch the TV. When employees came into work that day, they would take one look at me and ask what was wrong. I explained my son was in the South Tower and I had not heard if he made it out OK.It was about 3 p.m. when I answered the phone at the restaurant and heard the words, “Mom, it’s me and I’m OK.” Needless to say, these were the sweetest words I had ever heard!Over the course of the next few days he was able to slowly make his way back to Austin, Texas, using a combination of trains and buses. The Monday following the attack I was able to get a flight out to see him for a few days and make sure he was OK.In the years since 9/11, he has given a number of speeches detailing his experiences on that day. The point he continues to stress to groups is the courage and determination of the firemen and first responders who were making their way UP the stairwells while so many were desperately trying to get down. He says he knows many of these service workers did not make it out of the building alive.My son and I were able to meet in New York in September of 2006 while he was working for a different company. This was his first visit since 9/11, and we retraced his steps from that day. It was very emotional visiting Ground Zero, not only for our sake but for all those who lost their lives there.I am so thankful I am able to sit here today and write this story of his escape and remember those who died in all the attacks on 9/11.
By Christine HighSilverthorneIn September, 2001 I was a department supervisor in a New Jersey public school system, an affluent community about 50 miles west of what became known as Ground Zero. In that community many of the school children’s parents worked in the financial field, and many worked on Wall Street, or even more specifically in the World Trade Center. On the morning of September 11, I was making rounds to the elementary schools when I heard on the radio about the plane flying into the first of the Twin Towers. Hurrying into the school office, I found administrators and staff already making decisions about how to respond. As moments passed, some parents began arriving wanting to take their children out of school, because they wanted their children home with them. It was a long day for school staff and administrators watching events unfold. We wondered what was happening, and what these events meant for us all, but we also had the responsibility of the students’ welfare to consider. In the middle school and high school students were told about the events because they had cell phones, and they knew as we did of the events, and they had to be kept calm. Teachers maintained a semblance of a normal school day. But concerns about the parents of many students became foremost in everyone’s mind. News began to trickle in about whose parents were where. I remember that the mother of one boy came to school to notify her son that his father was safe. Upon receiving the information outside his classroom door, the boy fainted. We saw and heard of many similar events that day and in days to come. Many of our students had parents who died in the explosions or collapse of the Twin Towers. Cell and landline phones functioned poorly if at all as they were working on overload. Everyone was trying to reach out to their loved ones to confirm where they were. My husband worked in Jersey City, even closer to NYC than I did, but I was able to reach him. On my way home, I pulled into the parking lot of a Catholic Church, a high point on the hillside. On that beautiful sunny day, I could see the New York skyline, and the smoke rising from the location of the Twin Towers, and though we appeared to be physically safe, emotionally we had been struck a mighty blow. In the fall of 2008, my husband and I retired and moved here from New Jersey. I am occasionally reminded by the beautiful blue skies here of the cloudless sky that horrendous day in 2001.
By Cliff EdwardsDillonOn September 11, 2001, I was working as a fireman here in Summit County doing what hundreds or possibly thousands of firemen are doing 365 days a year during the first several hours of the duty day: I was cleaning the floor that the engines and other fire apparatus sit on. Cleaning is a never ending task in any fire house. One of the guys who was cleaning the break room where the TV was on told me, “You need to come and see this job happening in NYC. An airliner has hit the side of the World Trade Center.” I shook my head and said, “Those FDNY guys work some of the most amazing jobs anywhere.” I finished the floor and walked into the break room to witness what I had never seen in my 20-plus years as a fireman. Every person in the station including chiefs, captains, secretaries and the entire engine crew standing in front of the small TV. At that instant, the second plane hit tower one. We all knew the United States was under attack. Everybody immediately started calling family and loved ones. I called my wife and said, “Turn on the TV. Now.” She asked, “What channel?” I just said, “Any channel.” Then tower two collapsed. The room went silent. I know a little of how the FDNY operates, and I broke the silence and said, “Gentlemen, we just witnessed the death of hundreds of our brother firemen and probably thousands of civilians.”
By Sharon AndersonBreckenridgeOn the evening of Sept. 11, when people were beginning to be identified among the wreckage of the World Trade Center, I saw the photograph and name of Battalion Commander Raymond M. Downey, Sr., Special Operations Command, scroll across my television set. I had the privilege of hearing him as guest speaker at the Colorado State Fire Chiefs’ Convention held in Breckenridge in 1996.Downey, known as the “Master of Disaster,” was no stranger to the devastation caused by terrorism. He was operations chief and special investigator for the federal building bombing in Oklahoma City in 1995.Then, in 2002 I met FDNY Battalion Commander Richard Picciotto, who presided over Battalion 11, covering Manhattan’s Upper West Side. He is the author of “Last Man Down,” a detailed and harrowing account of the horror he experienced in the Twin Towers on Sept. 11. Picciotto was the highest-ranking firefighter to survive the collapse of the World Trade Center.For all of the heroes, both the fallen and the survivors – NEVER FORGET!!!
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