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Front Page » September 13, 2011 » Opinion » Staff column
Published 1,143 days ago

Staff column


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By RICHARD SHAW
Sun Advocate publisher

Memories of September 11, 2001

For anyone over five years of age at the time, it's not hard to remember the impact that the 9-11 attack had upon them and consequently their lives ever since.

It's hard to liken that day to anything else in our experience. People from the greatest generation compare it to how they felt when Pearl Harbor was bombed in 1941. Baby boomers often compare it to the assasination of President John F. Kennedy, his brother Robert Kennedy or Martin Luther King. Those over 30 can also remember the shock of the space shuttle Challenger blowing up only a few seconds after liftoff from Cape Canaveral. All those things happened before 9-11, an attack that didn't take place against one person, an attack whose main event selected buildings filled with civilians, even though farther south they did pick a military target in the form of the Pentagon. It was instead truly an attack against our country, against our form of life.

Impressions linger from that morning in 2001. In Carbon County the day, weather wise, was much like the one in New York. It was cool and sunny, the perfect day to be out in the park or hiking somewhere up a canyon. Instead of doing those things though I was sitting in my cubicle in the editorial department here at the Sun Advocate. I was the only one in the building on that Tuesday morning when I got a call from my son who was a sophomore at Carbon High.

"Dad, you need to find a tv," he said. "A plane just hit the World Trade Center in New York. We are watching it on television right now."

I had an old television sitting next to my desk, but the signal (we didn't have cable here) was never very good because of the thick concrete and metal walls in the building. I could get only get Channel 5 and those images were shawdowy and filled with snow. I could see the building burning and then suddenly they showed the image of another plane hitting the other tower. I didn't see how the first one could be an accident, but then my mind wouldn't let me go where my thoughts were headed until that second plane.

My son called again. "This is an attack," I said. "We will be going to war," as I thought about all that could transpire to put both my boys in the military and in harms way. "You need to think about that and what you will be doing in the future."

My first impressions were all mine. But as I thought about writing this I didn't want to dwell on what I thought, but on what others saw and perceived. I thought about going out on the street and asking various people, but instead decided to stay within the confines of the Sun Advocate office. Many of the people were working here when it happened, but many were doing other things at the time.

Interestingly enough, as far away as the events were, we did have some staff members that had some kind of ties to those who were closed to the disaster. Here are some of their impressions.

•John Serfustini, Associate Editor.

"I was in my office at Channel 9 (John owned and operated Channel 9 as a local news provider at that time) and I got a phone call from my sister who said 'One of our American Airline planes hit the World Trade Center,'" stated Serfustini. His brother-in-law and sister both worked for the airline. "I thought to myself that this was no accident after the first crash. When the towers came down I went to the college and the public schools and started to get reaction from people for my station. I remember that the main thing the schools were doing was trying to calm students down. The kids needed to be convinced that they were okay here, safe because we were a long way from New York."

*Kevin Scannell, Reporter.

"I was a sophomore in high school in Colorado at the time," said Scannell. "I was still asleep when it happened, but while I was getting ready I turned on the television and saw it. When I got to school a lot of people were upset and many were crying. They didn't want us to focus on it because they told us the situation was out of our control. I also had this friend then whose dad worked at the World Trade Center and he tried to call his father all day long. Finally that afternoon his dad called him and told him he was okay. The jammed up phone lines had kept him from getting in touch earlier.

*Kristy Woodhouse, Web techinician.

"I was home with my kids in Springville where we lived at the time," stated Woodhouse. "My husband called me and told me to turn on the television. It had barely happened. I had three little kids at home at the time (ages one to six) and I wouldn't let them watch television. My brother was in the Army at the time and I was scared as to what might happen to him. I also had a step brother and his wife who worked near the World Trade Center. I was worried about them, but found out later they both happened to be out-of-town that day."

*Kelly Wilkinson, Production Manager.

"I was just getting up and my husband was watching television. He said 'Can you believe this; a plane just flew into the World Trade Center.' When the second one hit we realized it just wasn't an accident. I was worried that my three year old daughter would be really upset. She asked me what was happening and I told her that some bad men had flown an airplane into a building. She just kind of shrugged her shoulders, not really understanding what had happened. I know that I felt incredibly vulnerable. I worried that it could happen anywhere."

*Lynna Tweddell, Advertising Sales Representative.

*I was at home getting ready for work and I was watching television and saw it. I said out loud 'Oh my hell.' My kids were 16 and 18 at the time. All I can say is that work at Ginas Groom and Board that day were not good. I remember we watched a lot of what was going on on Gina's television that day."

*Linda Thayn, Business Manager.

"I was watching the news before coming to work. I saw the second plane hit. I couldn't believe it."

*Sheri Davies, Classified Advertising Manager.

"I was getting ready for work and saw it on television. It was devastating. I was working at the College of Eastern Utah part time then and I went to work and tried to tell my supervisor about it. She didn't seem to catch on to the gravity of the situation. Then the news spread of the second plane hitting the other tower. The televisons around the building came on and no one could believe it was happening."

An issue of the Sun Advocate came out the morning of the attacks, because it was a Tuesday; but because the paper had been printed the night before nothing was in it concerning 9-11. The web page was very rudimentary at that time and updating it with info was much more difficult than it is today.

It wasn't until Thursday, Sept. 13 that the paper could respond about news of the community concerning the attacks. People had already stepped up by offering blood, clothing, money, anything that could help those that suffered from the attack. It was reported that at noon on 9-11 the Senior Center held a special program with the county's emergency coordinator speaking about the situation and what could be done locally. A candlelight vigil was held that week at the College of Eastern Utah for the victims of the attacks. Carbon County was in mourning despite the fact that the events took place over 2000 miles away.

It was a time of confusion and anger; of fear and concern about the future. The country stood on the brink of who knows what; we just knew we had to do something.

It was a time of unity.

It was also a turning point for all of us.

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