Doug’s Diggings: It may be 10 years, but impact far from overIt is hard to believe that we are 10 years out from the attack on the United States by Islamic extremists. The day was one of those that we all remember very vividly. There are not too many news events in a person’s lifetime that trigger that sort of reaction.
By: Doug Stohlberg, Hudson Star-Observer
It is hard to believe that we are 10 years out from the attack on the United States by Islamic extremists.
As most of us recall, members of al-Qaeda hijacked four airliners and carried out suicide attacks against targets in the United States. Two of the planes were flown into the towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, a third plane hit the Pentagon just outside Washington, D.C., and the fourth plane crashed in a field in Pennsylvania. Over 3,000 people were killed during the attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C., including more than 400 police officers and firefighters.
The day was one of those that we all remember very vividly. There are not too many news events in a person’s lifetime that trigger that sort of reaction. In my mind the 9/11 attacks rank up there with the Kennedy assassination — virtually every moment of the day is still fresh in my mind.
Before I come to work each day, I usually watch the news on television as I’m eating breakfast. That day, the report came that a plane had struck the north tower of the World Trade Center in New York City. When I first heard it, I suspected it was a small plane. We soon learned, however, that it was a much bigger plane. Regardless, I expected it was some sort of freak accident. The first impact came at about 7:45 a.m. our time.
I left for work, but when I walked into the Star-Observer building, I soon discovered that a second plane had crashed into the south tower just 18 minutes after the first crash — suddenly my mindset changed. I, along with everyone else in America, realized this was not an accident — we were under attack.
The 2001 incident occurred on a Tuesday, generally an extremely busy day in the weekly newspaper business. Soon we heard the Pentagon was hit, and that a plane crashed in Pennsylvania. Everyone in our building was feeling uncomfortable — no one knew what the remainder of the day would bring.
One of our employees went home and brought in a small television so we could monitor the reports of the day.
Because it was a Tuesday (deadline day), our staff scrambled to try and put some sort of story together for the Sept. 13 edition of the Star-Observer. We talked to former publisher, the late Willis Miller, who compared the attack to his memories of Pearl Harbor. We talked to Hudson Middle School Principal Dan Koch. The school turned its television network onto CNN and attempted to make some sort of “teachable moment” out of the tragic events. We talked to Father John Rasmus of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. He urged people to stay calm, monitor what their children see on television, be careful about listening to doomsday folks and ended by saying “Our hope in all of this is in the hands of God.”
In the subsequent weeks the Star-Observer actually had more extensive coverage as we began to track down Hudsonites and former Hudsonites who were in New York, or who actually witnessed the attack. In paging through the papers for the rest of 2001, it appeared that we had several 9/11 stories each week for seven or eight weeks and some reference to the events in each newspaper for virtually the rest of the year.
Back to Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001. As fate would have it, my birthday falls on 9/11. When I arrived home that evening, we decided to still go out of a bite to eat. We went to the Bungalow in Lakeland and were virtually the only people in the restaurant. There were about a handful of people gathered around a bar with their eyes glued to the television. Of course, our eyes were glued to the TV also.
When we were driving back to Hudson, there were radio reports of lines at gas stations — some parts of the country were already charging outrageous prices. The radio announcers seemed to be part of plan to reassure the public that there was no problem with the gas supply — no need to “run out fill up your tank.”
When we arrived in Hudson, however, we discovered the gas stations were busy with people lined up to purchase gas. Fortunately, the gas lines disappeared quickly — the run on gas never materialized.
At home that evening we continued to watch television, trying to make sense out of the crazy event of the day. Looking back today, I realize that the event of Sept. 11, 2001 changed our world. There are changes all around the world in all sorts of ways people go about their daily business.
For the average person, changes in security procedures are probably the most noticeable. We forget that we could at one time walk into the airport and show someone a paper ticket and walk onto the plane. I always tell the story from the 1980s when I used my father-in-law’s plane ticket. As long as you had a ticket in hand, nobody really cared who you were. Ironically, the ticket in my father-in-law’s name also had his last name misspelled. But that ticket got me to Los Angeles and back with nary a questioning eye.
Yes, the past 10 years have gone fast. But for the people who died in the 9/11 attacks, and all the military personnel who have spent time defending our country and given their lives, it’s been a traumatic 10 years. I think of the story the newspaper covered in November 2005 when Hudson High grad Benjamin Smith, just 21 years old, was killed in Latafiyah, Iraq. That was one of the countless tragic effects of the attacks on 9/11.
Because of the events on Sept. 11, 2001, the impact of that day will be felt for many more years to come.