SDN Readers share 9/11 memories

"My daughter, Mary Malinda Valentine, who was 10 years old at the time, took a photograph of the World Trade Center towers on Dec. 19, 2000.
“We had visited the World Trade Center towers because I wanted her to see them, plus they had some really nice shops on the bottom level. She was looking for some clothes to wear to a concert at Madison Square Garden.
“While in the rotunda area of the Towers, she was begging me to take her to the top. I had told her that we were not going to the top since we had been to the top of the Empire State Building and that was enough.
“She kept insisting, and her godmother offered to take her. I wouldn’t let her go, and she wanted to know why.
“I had the most eerie feeling while was in there, and I finally told her that al Qaida had tried to blow up the towers in 1993 and I felt like they would try again and I surely didn’t want to be at the top with her when it happened. She asked me if we could leave immediately.
“After the towers came down on 9/11, she kept asking me if the people (in the shops that kept wanting her to talk to hear her Southern accent) that she met there had gotten out safely. I had no idea. We were so happy that we had the opportunity to visit and to cherish our memories.”

Debi Valentine
I was living in Atlanta, seven months pregnant with my first child, and working at an Irish bank on the 35th floor of a busy skyscraper. My boss’ wife called as soon as the television stations first reported it. 
“Huddled around a co-worker’s computer, none of us really understood the implications of what was happening until we saw the first tower go. I was so shaken and worried about working in a tall building in a city that housed the CDC (Center for Disease Control) with all of its biological weaponry, that I asked to go home. 
“I felt like a sitting duck. My boss let me go, probably only because I was pregnant; everyone else stayed through the day. I remember driving listening to the radio and looking at other drivers’ faces; it reminded me of zombies – just numb. I could tell some were crying, as I was. 
“I called my husband who was traveling with work and broke the news to him. 
“He didn’t fully understand, not being around a television. I don’t think one can fully understand the symbolic pillars of America and New York City being taken down by an airplane until one actually sees it happening. 
“I kept some newspapers of the day, and even 2 months later when my daughter was
born, and it was still very much news, so she could read about it when she grew up.”

Amy Zeger Burton
In September 2001, my husband Tom and I were on a Garden Tour led by our good friend and former Starkville resident, Ed Martin, in France. We were to fly home to Atlanta on September 12.
“The morning of the 11th, we had been to Giverny, Monet’s garden, where we bought mementoes to bring home. We had returned to our hotel at the Palace of Versailles (a part of the Palace with Napoleon’s initial on the arch to the courtyard) to leave those packages. Tom turned on the TV to check the stock market. The first plane had hit and we saw the second plane hit the towers.
“I went racing to the rooms of the rest of the group to tell them to turn on their TV. We listened as CNN told of all borders of USA being closed and knew we would not be flying to Atlanta the next day. Our group huddled in one room watching the news of the horrendous attack.
“Our tour leader, Jeff Sainsbury, was in contact with Air France to see when the first plane would be leaving Paris. We had no idea of how long the borders would be closed. We started talking about getting money from ATM and looking for a less expensive hotel. The tour was planned to end with flourish, so we were in very expensive rooms and knew we couldn’t maintain that expense for a week or more.
“We were on the street in front of a small hotel trying to read a French sign with rates when an elegant older woman stopped and asked, ‘American?’ I could speak no French and she no English, but when I responded ‘yes’ with a nod of my head, she immediately opened her arms and came to hug me with her eyes rimmed with tears.
“I am sure she remembered what the Americans had done for France in World War II and was still so thankful. I would have to say this was the most memorable experience I had. It still gives me goose bumps to recount that heartfelt incident.
“When the borders opened on Sept. 14, our plane was allowed to fly to Atlanta. Needless to say, Charles de Gaulle airport was very crowded with people trying to get a flight out of Paris.
“We were interviewed by France TV while we waited. They asked how we felt and my response was that I felt like there was a death in the family and I could not get home. It was really strange to realize we could not go home to our USA.
“Finally, our names were called and we were able to fly to Atlanta with no incident. We landed there to see workers on the tarmac waving a huge American flag as we taxied to a stop and everyone on the plane cheered.
“When we went through customs, workers gave us chocolate Hershey kisses; as we rounded the corner to go to baggage claim workers cheered, clapped and stuck small American flags in men’s shirt pockets; workers rushed up to us in the halls to ask where we were going and could they carry our luggage.
“There was LOVE in abundance everywhere. It did not matter if you were young, old, black, white, etc. We were all Americans and that meant we were family. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all Americans were treated like that all of the time? ‘One nation, under God....’”

Fay H. Fisher
I was having a leisurely breakfast on the morning of 9/11, HelenSue having gone to a computer class, when the phone rang. It was my former secretary.
“‘Are you watching TV,’ she asked.”
“When I replied negatively, she told me about the World Trade Center and the Pentagon being hit, knowing our son, Col. Bill Stoppel, was working at the latter.
“I thanked her and quickly turned on the TV, horrified as I watched what was happening. A long morning followed as I tried to get through to Bill and his wife, Sandi, with no success. A couple of friends came over to sit with me through the long hours, which I greatly appreciated.
“HelenSue got home later in the morning, completely oblivious of what had happened.
“About 11:30, I got a call from my daughter, Ann: ‘Get on the e-mail quick. We just heard from Bill.’”
“When I did so, we had a message that he was okay. He had taken our 9-month-old grandson, Will, to the Pentagon Day Care Center for his first day there and had gone to check on him about 9 o’clock. He heard an explosion as he got to the front door and subsequently helped evacuate some 200 children up to the Lee Mansion above Arlington.
“We finally got to talk with him later that evening and learned that just 15 minutes earlier, he had walked where the plane hit. Only a year later die we hear his entire story when he related to the Starkville Daily News on the first anniversary of the attacks.
“It is said that the national unity that brought us all together in the wake of 9/11 has long since vanished.”

Bill and HelenSue Parrish
On Sept. 11, 2001, I was at home getting ready to go to the Red Cross office when my husband called and told me to turn on the TV. I could not believe what I was seeing and had no idea how my day would be affected by the events unfolding that morning.
“Little did we know that Red Cross chapters across the country would all be involved with this horrible tragedy. The phone rang constantly — as soon as we hung up from one call another call would come in.
“I especially remember one young, and very frightened mother calling wanting to know how could she protect her children.
“Another lady came in and just stayed with us in the office for several hours.  Her daughter lived in New York and at that time she had not been able to contact her and she wanted to be at Red Cross.
“Then many calls came in and people came by hoping to donate blood immediately.  Since the local chapter was not a blood unit we were not able to host a blood drive for a couple of weeks.  Sadly blood was not needed as much as everyone thought and hoped it would be because so few people survived.
“Sept. 11 is a day that all of us will never forget.  Our country was changed forever on the fateful day. I hope and pray that Americans will once again come together like we did after the terrorist attacks. 
“We must never take our freedom for granted and we must always pray for the men and women in our armed forces who put themselves in harms way every day to protect our country and her people.
“My prayer is that God will continue to bless America and that more Americans will turn to Him.”

Cerese Teel
I was teaching at Armstrong Middle School and I received a call from my daughter, who is a flight attendant for Delta Airlines.
“On that day she was on a flight from Atlanta back to New York, her home base. She said, ‘Momma, something bad has happened. Turn on the news! A large passenger plane has crashed into the World Trade Center.’
“Then she said, ‘It’s not a Delta plane. We’re OK. We’ve been diverted back to Atlanta. We almost were in Washington, D.C., when we got the news. I don’t know when I’ll talk to you again. I just wanted you to know I’m OK.’”
“I’m so thankful she called me. This was before the news broke on the media. It was over a week before I heard from her again, because cell phones did not work for a while. It was a week before the flight crew was allowed to return to JFK.
“Her comments from the air on her return were, “There is a big smoke cloud hovering over New York.” When she reached her residence in Brooklyn, she said there was an acrid smell in the air and she felt like she was in a war zone.
“We later found out that our son and daughter-in-law, who lived in Williamsburg, Va., had allowed their two pet “therapy” dogs to go to the hospital in Richmond, Va., to visit the families of the burned victims from the Pentagon.
“The dogs were a big hit with the families and made several visits to the hospital. Their dog, Katie, received a Presidential Citation for her help with visiting the families.”

Nancy B. Underwood
I woke up this morning wondering what it was like on Sept. 11, 2001 for thousands of men and women to kiss their loved ones good-bye that morning and rush off to work at the Twin Towers.
“Like today in Starkville, just a day like any other. Would you think your life was going to end today? But, what if today were the day? That’s what 9/11 has done to me.
“First, I have often thought, ‘What did the people high up in the first tower know?’ When they called a loved one, did they panic, cry, try to assure them everything would be okay? Did they tell them endearing thoughts and remain positive? Did they see on TV or hear on the news that there was no hope to escape?
“Since 9/11 I have embraced ever more, the adage, ‘Make the most of today, always kiss the ones you love, if you see a stranger that needs help, help them now.’ If you can brighten someone’s day with a compliment, say it and mean it.
“I practice what I preach and I have found out that the appreciation I have for my immediate family, my Coldwell Banker family, my Starkville family and my American family has become endless. My son recently came home from (MSU) for Sunday lunch with friends.
“After the visit they ran out to the car calling “shotgun” and took off. I was sitting outside reading. I realized he did not hug me goodbye. As modern days would have it, I sent him a text, “Don’t ever leave your mother with saying goodbye and a hug, you never know if we will see each other again.” He sent back, “I better see you again!” That’s hope.
“Every day I step out of my house I HOPE to see my family again. I pray to see them again and I make the best moments I have with them NOW! That is what 9/11 did to and for me. I hurt for the victims of 9/11, the ones that are gone and the people they left behind. Sometimes I think every American can be thought of as “left behind” from the impact of that tragedy.”

Dorothy Watson