Readers share memories from that day

North Middle School students designed a Memorial Wall to commemorate Saturday’s anniversary of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attack on the United States.

North Middle School students designed a Memorial Wall to commemorate Saturday’s anniversary of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attack on the United States.

Richard Parrish | The Lima News


Read more about the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks at

From prayers to tears, readers of The Lima News recall their reactions from the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Here are highlights of their responses. Find their entire letters on

Praying for Amy

On the day that changed America, my husband Larry and I were driving between the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas. Having spent a few days at the canyon, we awoke very early on Sept. 11th and left at about 3 a.m. so as to make an early arrival into Vegas. When the car radio reported at 5:46 Arizona time of the first plane hitting the North Tower, we assumed that it was a tragedy probably caused by a pilot losing control after having a heart attack or some medical emergency.

When the report came of the second plane crashing into the South Tower, we knew this was no accident. Upon hearing the first plane identified as American Airlines flight 11 from Boston’s Logan International Airport, our hearts sank and panic set in. You see, our daughter, Amy, is a flight attendant for American, and we knew she was scheduled to work a flight leaving Boston early that morning to fly to the West Coast.

Frantic cell phone calls began in the hopes of finding her still on the ground in Boston, but our calls went right to her voicemail telling us her phone was either not working or was shut off. We reached Kingman, Arizona, where we stopped to take a break and try to reach family back home. As my husband went for coffee, I stood outside frantically trying to call anyone and everyone to see if they had heard from either Amy or her then-husband Dale, who also flew for American.

Finally I was able to reach our son-in-law, who is a police officer in Ohio. He had worked the night shift and had slept through the morning. I tearfully relayed the events in NYC and asked him to make calls to try and find Amy. People nearby sitting outside enjoying the morning had not heard the news and approached me when they heard my tearful account.

Some quickly left the area, but one woman put her arms around me as I cried in the despair I felt over not knowing my daughter’s fate. She asked my daughter’s name, then she prayed with me that Amy would be found safe and that I would hear from her soon. I wish I had gotten the name of this kind lady who took the time to comfort me in Kingman that morning. She will forever be an angel in my heart.

Our car was one of the last to cross Hoover Dam that morning before it was closed. Just as we came over the rise in Henderson, Nevada, and caught sight of Vegas, Amy was able to call us from where her plane had been grounded to assure us she was safe! Tears of relief flowed from both Larry and my eyes.

Our first look at the devastating footage of the planes hitting the towers was when we checked into our hotel on the Strip. To this day when I walk past that spot in that casino I get a sick feeling in my stomach. How strange to be in Vegas on that day and the next few when the air was absolutely free of planes coming and going…when there was not one rental car sitting on the lots but lines of people camping out waiting for one to come available to escape the city. How blessed we felt to have a rental that we had picked up earlier in Phoenix, one that the rental company allowed us to drive all the way home to Ohio with no additional fee for taking it so far away from its origin!

Amy lost friends on flight 11 on that awful Sept. 11th, and a few weeks later Amy, Dale, my sister and I made a trip to Ground Zero to pay tribute to those who died there. The smoke was still rising from the site on Nov. 3 when we were there. Amy and Dale still fly for American Airlines.

— Deb Sidener, Cridersville

On a subway at Pentagon

I’m a former Lima resident but on Sept. 11, I was sitting on a subway train under the Pentagon. That morning I was on my way to start work as a docent in a D.C. museum. Stopping at the Pentagon underground station, we were told there was a security issue, and no one could leave the train. It was 9:39. Eventually we were allowed to get off the train but only to board another train going back to where we embarked.

At the next stop back, most of us jumped off to find out what was happening. A huge spiral of black smoke could be seen at the Pentagon. We were about a mile away. I remember two military jets screamed over us very low. For a moment I wondered if they were ours or some foreign country. They were US fighter jets, no doubt ready to intercept any other hijacked planes.

I remember feeling unsafe wondering what else was going to happen to our country. Even a month later as we walked our dog every night, we could hear military planes patrolling the Washington area.

While retaliation was talked about and everyone was on board, the “hate” started: Hate talk and derisive action toward Muslim women who worked at my school and hate for the existing mosques in our community forgetting guaranteed religious freedom for all. It seems that frustration for things we can’t control brings out our worst actions.

And we’re seeing that again. Those frustrated with their lives look to the “other” to blame. The “other” are immigrants or anyone who doesn’t look like “us.” Let’s hope we can be more welcoming to the refugees coming into the U.S. after helping “us” in their country since 9/11.

— Mary Settlemire Rampe, Celina

On such a beautiful day

Our son, Rob Allen, was interviewed by the local TV station as he was going into the Lima post office on Sept. 11, 2001. I remember he said these events were “ gut-wrenching” — certainly a good description of that terrible day.

I remember having bus duty at Allen East that afternoon and saying to my principal, “How could something so evil happen on such a beautiful day!”

—Dorothy Allen, Harrod

Redwoods and prayer

On Sept. 10, 2011, my husband and I joined an Ottawa tour from Detroit to Seattle, Wash., for a week bus trip down the West Coast to San Francisco.

On the morning of Sept. 11, I turned on the TV to see what was on because of the time difference. I couldn’t believe what I saw. Needless to say, we were in shock, and of course, our trip was greatly altered, although we were lucky that we could continue.

At the end of the week on our second-to-last day, Sunday, our group was in the Redwood Forest, and the sky was a clear, beautiful blue with puffy white clouds and those awesome trees. We joined hands and said a prayer together and then sang, “America, the Beautiful.” There wasn’t a dry eye among us.

We were very lucky we could depart from home on schedule, as another group had been waiting to depart since Sept. 11. When we landed in Detroit, there was much applause and more tears.

I learned we should not take too much for granted in America, and these last months are a prime example. Prayers! Prayers! God bless America.

Jean Kohls, Columbus Grove

Stunned in Europe

We were on a tour of battlegrounds of Europe and were watching a movie in the museum in Plymouth, England. When we came out of the movie, the museum director asked us if we were Americans. When we said yes, he told us what had happened.

We all watched TV that night. Our tour continued without any problems, except we had to “sit down” in Newark on our return flight, which wasn’t on our original schedule. When we were in Paris, we met a group stranded that had no idea how or when they would get home.

Jane Schnarre, St. Marys

Memories of Dad

In memory of my dad, Paul E. Bechtel, and in honor of my son, Richard Bolender Jr., who have both served in the United States Army.

On Sept. 11, 2001, I had returned home from my morning job and was sitting and watching TV and thinking of my dad. He had died in January 2001, and today, 9/11, was the first birthday he wasn’t here.

I thought of what a good dad he had been. I admit a few tears were falling, and then my attention turned to the TV. I finally realized what I saw was really happening. I sat, stunned, wondering who would or could do this to the United States of America. I reached for my phone to call my sons.

So I will always remember 9/11/01 because of my dad’s birthday and the terrible tragedy inflicted on my country. Happy birthday, Dad!

— Judith Bechtel, Lima

Weekend with vets

On Sept. 11, 2001, my husband was scheduled for a stress test at Lima Memorial Health System with Dr. Scott Walery. We arrived early in the morning and went upstairs to start the test. When the first part of the test was over, we were told to go to the cafeteria and get something to eat.

While sitting there, we watched as the first plane crashed into Tower One. Everyone in the cafeteria couldn’t believe what we were watching. At first we thought the plane had trouble and accidentally crashed into the tower.

We went back upstairs, where the nurses had turned on the TV in the waiting room. My husband went back to continue his test when the second plane crashed.

I remember sitting in the waiting room, hearing a nurse crying and saying she needed to go home. She needed to be with her family.

My husband finished his test, and we came home to watch TV for the rest of the day and days after.

That weekend, my husband and I attended the Kokomo Vietnam Veterans Reunion outside of Kokomo, Ind. This reunion is held every September, where Vietnam veterans from all over the United States get together. When we turned the corner to the “Healing Fields,” as the grounds for the reunion is known by, there were hundreds and hundreds of American flags — every car, truck, camper and campsite. Everywhere, there were flags.

That Saturday night, the veterans held a candlelight vigil. There was not a dry eye anywhere. Many of the veterans were saying if they were needed to fight for America and the people of the United States, even though they were getting older, they would enlist again.

On the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11, the reunion made life-size footprints and attached them to the front fence along the road. Each footprint represented someone who lost their life that day. Each footprint contained a name, age, picture if available, plane and/or place where they died. At the end of the reunion, everyone was told to take a footprint and remember Sept. 11, 2001.

— Mary Warrens, Lima

Love like you mean it

My mom was at work, my dad was outside working with some tools, while I was watching my little niece. She had recently turned 1.

At some point, my dad came inside and said, “Do you have the television on?” I wondered why, until he said someone just flew a plane into the World Trade Center. After a little while, we were watching the replaying of the event, when we heard that the Pentagon was also hit. I think we, as a nation, were in a state of shock that something like this could happen to us.

In our community, people came together to pray, give blood and to start being a little kinder to everyone. I remember reading the coverage in The Lima News about the tragedy. I believe I still have one of the special editions that were printed.

Several country artists wrote songs about the tragedy, one of which was Alan Jackson’s “Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning.” To this day, it still strikes a chord with me. Also, after having read the book, “Love Like You Mean It: A story of Love, Loss and Friendship” by Patricia Carrington and several other widows, my family and I have started saying it to one another. Life is short, and our friends and family mean the most to us.

A few days after the tragedy, I decided to try my hand at creating some poems. I have included two of them in this letter. I would hope that what united us as a country then could help reunite us again. We need to realize that what happened then should never happen again!

A Sad Day — September 11, 2001

The day dawned bright and new. But by day’s end we’d all be blue.

For on this day tragedy struck. From New York to D.C. We said a plea, to lady liberty.

One after another the people came. They all said the same. “Why is this happening” to the U.S. of A.

We’ve befriended countries big and small. So where’s the help when we stumble and fall? Now’s the time to gather and mourn. For the many families that were torn.

Until this day we were safe, or so we thought. Terrorism is not a lesson to be taught. Because one day soon Osama Bin Laden will be caught.

9-11 Was the Day

In America 911 is meant for emergencies. And on this day the call was made For terrorists were in the USA.

9-11 Was the Day

The day that America stood still For on this day innocent souls were lost. A few brave heroes wouldn’t go quietly into the night, But stood around to help others out We honor them all through those days and nights.

9-11 Was the Day

Thousands of Americans came to pray. For when we saw on the news, the destruction those planes could do. We all said not Flight 93 and the Pentagon too. Now thousands wonder what they can do, to help The cause of the Red, White and Blue.

9-11 Was the Day

Children came to say, “Why do people hate the USA?” Doctors, nurses, and firemen were called. To help those who had taken serious falls. They searched and searched for those left alive. But in the end, thousands died. As a nation we stood together as one.

9-11 Was the Day

The ground shook and suddenly the towers gave way. But America is strong and together we’ll say God Bless the USA.

— Melissa Ellerbrock, Ottawa

Witnessing history

Oh yes, I remember 9/11/2001 very well. We moved into a new place to live just a few days before then. My husband was in our television room and saw how the first tower was hit. I was in another room, and he quickly came in and said to me, “You better come quickly. I think you are missing some history.”

I grew up in Chillicothe, Ohio, where there is a lot of history, and being the optimist that I am, I assumed there had to be something good on there. Just as I walked into the room where he was, I saw the second tower go down, and we both realized that it was not an accident.

We have learned from this that it is important to have all the details of what is happening before we come to a conclusion.

— Alice Beals, Lima

With other mentors

I was living in Continental when tragedy struck on Sept. 11, 2001. I heard news that a plane had hit the World Trade Center on the car radio. I was traveling to the elementary school to mentor a student. I arrived, and all the other mentors were gathered, staring up at the TV just as the second plane hit. We realized this was no accident for two planes to hit the towers.

We were in a state of shock but did not speak of this to our young charges. I went home and flew the flag.

— Margaret Cleaves, Lima

Opening her eyes

I was sitting in a classroom on 9/11, fifth grade. My teacher turned the TV on and looked worried and sad. It was scary, yet being so young it was hard to understand what was happening. And more importantly, why. I still don’t know the answer to that.

A couple of years later, everybody in my class had to write a speech on a very interesting topic: “If I could change the world.” I did my speech on terrorism. 9/11 was a huge part of my speech. Before the twin towers, I never really knew what terrorism was. It opened my eyes to a dark and evil part of this world. My heart hurts for those families who lost loved ones that day.

— Brittany Sanner, Spencerville

Learning what matters

My memories of the day of the 9/11 attacks are still very vivid. I was a senior at Perry High School. Our class heard that the first plane had hit the World Trade Center. We initially thought that it was a very bad accident and sort of went on about our day, at least for the moment.

When we got to our next class, the teacher had the television on which was covering the plane hitting the tower. And then suddenly on live television our whole world changed. We sat and watched the second plane hit.

I personally didn’t know what to think. Living in Lima at the time with the tank plant and refinery so close, your mind can start to run, but I pushed those thoughts out and realized that we were at war with someone, and many lives were going to be forever changed in those few moments.

Of course the news of the other two planes came in shortly after, and classes for the day were pretty much stopped at this point. I personally was in total shock. I wondered did this mean there was going to be a war? Were some of my friends and family that were in the military going to be sent to war because of these attacks? There were so many unknowns early on in the day.

I remember getting through the day at school and just wanting to be home with my parents and my brother. Many people had lost loved ones in those horrible attacks, and I was very fortunate to have mine, and I wanted to be with them and take the moment to realize that we were fortunate to have one another!

My mother was in the music entertainment industry at that time, and she did a lot of work with the veterans. This particular day was her normal Tuesday night show at one of the local veterans clubs. They had decided to go on with the show that night, and it was overwhelming to be there with the veterans who had fought for our freedoms and had watched as I did that day those freedoms be openly attacked! There were many tears shed that evening, with patriotic songs being sang and that group of people cherishing being able to be together.

I will never forget that day as long as I live, I will never forget looking up in the sky and realizing that there wasn’t one plane in the sky. I learned that day what it really means to take time to cherish family. You never know what tomorrow brings. I learned that day that we can’t take this beautiful country that we are fortunate to live in for granted.

In the coming months and days, I watched friends and my cousin go off to war to protect our country from the conspirators in those attacks, and many paid the ultimate sacrifice to ensure that we were protected and could try to find a sense of normal life again. I think we all learned that day that our freedoms and our way of life is nothing to take for granted, and I trust that it is something that we will never forget.

—Chris Lyle, Jackson Center

Seeing it from Europe

On Sept. 3, my husband, our neighbors, and I arrived in Frankfurt, Germany, for the beginning of a European tour. We would eventually see parts of Germany, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Austria.

In the afternoon of Sept. 11, we arrived in Austria. It was around 4:30 p.m. that we checked into our hotel in Vienna and settled in our room. Shortly thereafter, as we put our clothes away and prepared for dinner, I turned on the TV. CNN is truly worldwide, and we had become accustomed to watching it for a sense of home and what the major news might be back in the United States.

I was quickly drawn to pictures of a tall city building with smoke billowing out of it. I momentarily thought it was a movie but soon realized that CNN does not show movies. Moments later, a jet rammed into the other building (tower) and I had this sinking feeling. I called for my husband, and together we sat on the bed and watched in disbelief and horror.

At the restaurant that evening, many travelers from several different countries had not heard the news and were wondering why we were so subdued. The people in our own tour group (though from various countries) were very sympathetic and seemed almost equally stunned as us. It was only later that people began to realize that this was the World Trade Center, and there were employees from all over the world.

In the days following, we often saw black flags flying alongside the American flag. That was somewhat comforting. Our tour leader kept getting off the bus and checking on the news. As the days wore on following the attacks, we became anxious and were looking forward to getting back to the States.

Our scheduled flight was three hours late, and we waited a full eight hours in the airport. There seemed to be never-ending lines to go through metal detectors and customs, but no one complained. People were handing out sandwiches, bananas and apples.

Ironically, we were on the first flight to fly into Detroit Metro Airport after the 9/11 tragedy. The same flight number that we were on had to turn around halfway over the ocean five days earlier on 9/11. Upon landing, the passengers broke out in a loud and sustained applause.

Amazingly, the normally bustling Detroit Airport looked almost deserted. Our neighbor’s van was nearly the only vehicle in the parking lot. We couldn’t find an attendant to pay our fee. Finally, someone in a nearby lot called the manager, and he said, “You’re so honest, just go on.” That was at least a $100 fee that he just blew off. Our 23-hour day ended with us safely back in Ottoville. Later, several of our fellow tour members wrote to us with tales of having to change numerous flights on their respective returns. We were so lucky!

I regret that our country has lost some of the patriotism and unity we experienced following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. It horrifies me to think that some young people, born since then, are being taugh to vilify this great country, while many of us remember the sacrifices and benevolence of their ancestors. Be careful for whom you vote!

— Louise Miller, Fort Jennings

Too close to winter home

Retired since 1994, I was home all day to watch, with disbelief and shock, the events unfolding on my screen. For the past 27 years, I have spent winter months in Venus, Florida. Later we all learned that Mohamed Atta and friends had taken some flight training at Huffman Aviation School at the local airport, about one mile from my location on the beach.

Restaurant personnel at Pelican Alley on the intercoastal and 44th Aero Squadron at the airport told similar stories of the group being very hostile to women and enjoying drinks forbidden to them in their home countries. Many regretted they didn’t understand the terrorists’ language to perhaps pick up clues. The group was led to housing near the airport by the school, where they were later kicked out due to extreme “lack of neatness.” Everyone expressed a lot of “what-if’s”! One story was that the terrorists expressed no interest in learning how to land!

— Bob Corson, Ottawa
North Middle School students designed a Memorial Wall to commemorate Saturday’s anniversary of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attack on the United States. Middle School students designed a Memorial Wall to commemorate Saturday’s anniversary of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attack on the United States. Richard Parrish | The Lima News


Read more about the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks at

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