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Your thoughts: Readers remember 9/11

Updated: September 10, 2011 11:05PM



Sue Komenda

I work with blood services with the American Red Cross. When we were told that the towers had been hit, we had no idea how our day would be affected. Our blood drive that day was at a church in LaPorte. We never had worked so hard and long. Seems as if the tragedy in New York opened the hearts of people that had never considered becoming a blood donor.

We stayed open until after 10 p.m. to collect blood from caring people that did not know how else they could show their patriotism. Donors were willing to wait for hours to help.

Later that week in Portage they had to have the police direct traffic, as hundreds showed up to donate at the YMCA. During the next couple of weeks Americans that wanted to help showed up to donate in record numbers.

Leo Marshall

Army Instructor, 1SG (R)

Hobart High School JROTC

Sept. 11 2001, changed my life, as it did all the other soldiers in the Indiana National Guard’s 113th Engineer Battalion, headquartered in Gary. I had just come back from a four-mile run that morning, getting back to the 113th Armory when my logistics NCO told me, “Hey, First Sergeant, you gotta see this: A plane flew into one of the towers in New York City.” Five minutes later, we watched the second plane hit. I was horrified and immediately said, “That ain’t no accident!”

From that moment, and the moment President Bush sent soldiers to Afghanistan, I knew it was only a matter of time before I went to war again. And our time came in 2004 when we got the word, the Engineer Battalion would be part of Operation Iraqi Freedom III.

It changed my life in ways I never thought possible, bringing up long-buried memories of my time during the first Gulf War in 1990-91.

As the 10-year anniversary approaches us, I’ll not celebrate but reflect on what has become of us as an Army and as a country. Where do we go from here? How do we answer the questions of the 99 percent of the people who don’t serve, who don’t understand those who lost loved ones on 9/11, and those who lost loved ones in war?

Ever vigilant, ever ready. Complacency kills.

Bill Truesdale

Glenwood, Ill.

Inconceivable as the events of that day, that a decade has since past. Memories tend to become elusive with the passing of time. Yet, the inescapable reality of Sept. 11 must never be obscured by an ever-advancing calendar or become inconsequential with subsequent generations.

The graphic visuals are ingrained in the soul. No matter your vantage point as a disbelieving witness, the events of that day, have left an enduring image with profound implications.

How could any American ever forget ...

The sudden explosive impacts, engulfing fireballs, as two commercial airliners penetrated the towers as if they were made of butter. The endless streams of confetti-like paper raining down from the Manhatten sky.

Faceless, doomed souls, clinging to shattered window-frames 80 stories skyward, hopelessly awaiting a rescue that would never come. Collective faces, yet, each so alone.

Phone messages from trapped victims reaching-out to loved ones, as the inescapable reality of their future was imminently clear.

Leaps of desperation, as the innocent were suddenly confronted with choosing agony by hellish inferno or a flailing free-fall into eternity a 1/4-mile below.

Disbelief, as two colossal towers succumbed to gravity, then suddenly, gone! And for many, the agonizing realization that someone so very instrumental in their lives, would not be coming home.

Heart-wrenching pleas, the anxiety and distress, as loved ones aimlessly wandered the streets of New York, seeking news, any news, on the fate of those held dear.

That gaping void where the towers once stood and, hauntingly surreal, skeletal remnants of the World Trade Center facade. The mountains of twisted steel, pulverized concrete and, unrecognizable remnants of commerce. The absolute devasation. The deafening silence, but for the wails of locator-beacons, yet, sadly, there was no one to rescue.

Never forget all who died that day and the courageous sacrifice of our military during the past decade, who responded on our nation’s behalf.

Our reflective thoughts on the events of 9/11 may differ in the details or historical perspective but, at that moment in time, that day, the world changed in profound ways.

Don’t know about you, but ... I WILL NEVER FORGET.

Eddie Washington

Gary

On the morning of 9-11, I was an unemployed communications worker from AT&T. ... As I sat in my living Room watching CNN. I saw the replay of the first plane to slam into the East tower. In real time I witnessed the second attack on the West tower. I watched in horror as some people jumped from the burning buildings to their deaths; Needless to say, my heart was heavy with grief and I was mad as hell at whoever was responsible for such an ungodly act.

During the subsequent news reporting, I picked up pen and paper to record in writing my personal thoughts. I completed the poem, “Prayer 911” on that infamous day and have made very little changes to it since. I am still tolerant of all religions as well as all people who profess an ideology not so radically leaning hard to the left or right.

This is the country that I voluntarily served in the military for and I am willing to fight just as hard now to solidify our great union rather than to destroy it by steadfastly holding on to radical ideology. The 10th anniversary of 9/11 should not only be a time of remembrance but also a time to show to the world, by our cohesiveness rather than our decisiveness, what the true spirit of America is. May God continue to bless America and all of the sane nations of world.

(Eddie V. Washington’s “Prayer 911” can be viewed on his website, www.versenframe.com/verses)

Anthony Alonzo

Munster

I was not far from checking the day’s news online on September 11, 2001. It was my morning routine. As I was waking, my mom came down the hall and said, “you’ve got to come and see what’s on TV.”

It was a bright late-summer morning. I noticed the beauty of the day peeking through the windows at my parents’ Munster home. Without question, I hurried to the family room and saw my mom and dad’s eyes fixated on the television screen. With tentative, disaster-related banners running on the bottom of the cable news presentation, I saw the New York skyline as I would never have imagined it.

I would have began to check job links and web sites – and I admit, enter various online contests, as the Internet still had a novelty value. Early in my post-college career I had resigned from a demanding position at a career consulting and writing service firm and was daily charting my new course from my desktop.

The next several days would have a decidedly external focus, but I would gain new employment in the months ahead as a resilient American economy would defy the odds and march past the new horror that was entering our timeline minute-by-minute.

A second large 767 commercial aircraft had banked left and exploded into the World Trade Center. Gray and black smoke rose from the towers at a much greater intensity than anyone of us have ever seen being emitted from the heavy industry smokestacks in this corner of the state.

As a family, we talked, but used few words. Our eyes and the eyes of the world would remain on lower Manhattan. A hellish day was created out of the clear blue sky. The hijackers – we already knew no right-thinking person would do this – had no names. “Al-Qaeda” was later assigned to these monsters.

As the moments ticked by, I recall my late father, a Vietnam Veteran who was battling cancer start to suggest ways that perhaps some people could be saved at the site of the attack. My mom seemed to almost mourn for the loved ones of the people at the Twin Towers. I began to wish that my folks would not have to see this. I thought of my young sister, barely a teen, learning about this at school. My brother would come home soon after: he said that there would be no work for him that day at the investment bank.

I had the VCR rolling, but instead of preserving a shocking moment, I began to think I would be capturing the beginning of the end: a plume of smoke over the Pentagon got me thinking that the beginning of an end-plan against the United States of America was at play. Before the U.S. won the Cold War, I had worried about such a scenario; I was a kid who really paid attention when the movie “The Day After” was shown on TV in the mid-1980s.

In a 2008 book by Lynn Spencer, the last moments of Peter Hanson were chronologed. Hanson, in a phone call from row 30 of doomed United Airlines Flight 175, told his father in Connecticut that he was not sure if he, his wife and two-year-old daughter onboard would ever see him again.

“I think they intend to go to Chicago or someplace and fly into a building,” Hanson reportedly said. “Don’t worry, Dad. If it happens, it’ll be very fast....Oh my God... oh my God, oh my God.”

Struck second, the 110-story South Tower rumbled and imploded, one floor on top of another, while the North Tower and its communications antenna remained standing for another 30 minutes. I stood in a doorway looking at the TV set and everything around me sort of disappeared but my parents. I just began praying, “Our Father…”

I am still amazed at the generosity of the American people.

For weeks, firefighters, students, clergy and people from every walk-of-life seemed to want to go to New York City. Mayor Rudy Giuliani and David Letterman eventually said it must be okay to laugh again. Missile strikes against terrorist camps commenced, and bolstered by a new spirit of volunteerism, our troops were soon on the ground, backing what President Bush had said: “the people who knocked down these building will hear from us all soon.”

Years later, I learned about Frank De Martini and Pablo Ortiz, two Port Authority workers who went from floor to floor sending dozens of people to safety down stairwells in the crippled WTC. In a recent TV special, “9/11: Heroes of the 88th Floor,” their final contribution to mankind is re-created.

I had not visited NYC before the terror attacks 9-11, but in November, 2001, I stayed with college friends in Brooklyn. Walking by fenced-off areas just blocks from the still smoldering, jagged remains of WTC, I noticed how quiet people got. I think as a society, we learned to communicate with our neighbors with more subtlety.

I’ll always remember seeing a greeting card – one of hundreds attached to the fences near Ground Zero. “With love from Muncie, Indiana.” I felt solidarity with not only people from my college hometown, but with almost everyone of good will. The postcards I sent to family and friends featured, of course, images of the pre-9-11 New York skyline.

Being a control kind of guy, I thought a lot about how the country would have to ratchet-up our airlines security. I thought about scrambling F-16s. I thought about those close to me continuing on our life journeys, but making sure we contributed to the commerce of the country while always setting aside something for those who would encounter life’s severities.

I sketched out a design for the rebuilding of the WTC site. It included a stair-stepping series of buildings featuring modern facades. I envisioned crossbeams like those on Chicago’s John Hancock Center showing the strength of an embrace. I remember talking to a close friend about not building on the actual footprint of the north and south towers. Too bad it stayed as a discussion just between friends early in the last decade.

After working in sales and teaching part-time, I became a correspondent with the Post-Tribune. This nearly five-year gig has afforded me some unique opportunities. It’s not just that I get to write original articles about local (and not-so-local) sports, business and interesting people, but that I can help tell people’s stories. Everyone has one (or two, or three…) and I believe it’s important to give them a spotlight.

Maybe the local soccer stud who got to travel to Europe because of his skill will appreciate the people who encouraged him as a youth in Northwest Indiana. Perhaps those elderly women who operated a telephone prayer service will have been able to reach out to just one more person in need on a dark, stormy night.

Opening their newspapers, I hope readers can find and express the spectrum of opinions that are present in just the Region alone. There are always at least two sides to every story, a well-respected journalism instructor taught me. People may even have some unusual reflections about 9-11.

So, as we commemorate 10 years since we responded to a tragedy as one people, let’s listen, read, talk, write – and clamor like champions for the new day on the horizon. We’re fortunate that it includes some real unique people like us.



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