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 LimaOhio.com.
Praying for Amy
On the day that changed America, my husband Larry and I were driving between the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas.
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.
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.
— 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.
— 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
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.
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!
— Melissa Ellerbrock, Ottawa
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
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.
—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.
— 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