September 11, 2001.
A day forever held in our hearts.
By: Gina Kay Singerhouse
(This article was printed in the September / October 2011 issue of Strictly Country Magazine.)
It's Tuesday, September 11, 2001. The thought that it's only Tuesday keeps running through his head. He is a New York Fire Fighter. Since he was a kid, when he first saw that big beautiful red fire truck rolling down his street, he has wanted to be a Fire fighter. Now, here he is with a rag in one hand and polish in another, polishing this big beautiful rig. He keeps thinking about this up coming weekend. It's his weekend off and he's taking the family up state to a Fall festival. His son, a spitting image of him, loves to pick apples. It's their favorite time of the year. He smiles thinking about how his son gets caramel all over his face from eating a caramel apple.
It's Tuesday, that's all she can think of. It's only Tuesday. She is full of anxiety. It's her daughter's wedding this weekend. If only she didn't have to fly to Los Angeles for work. She should have taken the week off. She boards the plane in hope to catch up on some work during the flight.
Twenty years in and another five more before he retires. Every day he thinks about that as he rides the elevator to the 39th floor of the World Trade Towers. He thinks about what life would be like when he retires.
She loves to fly. It's always been her passion. If only she would have joined the military, she could have been a pilot. But, she has settled for being an airline stewards. She is eager this flight. She will be able to spend time with her parents when she arrives in California. It has been nearly four years since she has seen them in person. She calls them prior to the flight and tells them she'll be home in time for dinner. Smiling and a bounce in her step, she boards the flight destined for California.
He's in New York for the first time in fifteen years. Things have changed, but then again things haven't changed. It's New York. He's here to visit his High School buddy. He received an e-mail this morning from him telling him that he'll meet him at their favorite bar on the lower East side at 6 p.m.. He can't wait. He has always harassed his buddy about climbing all the way to the top of the Word Trade Towers. But, his buddy always laughs and says 'That's where I work, man!'
It's their eighth wedding anniversary. The sun is slowly rising from the east over the farm lands of Wisconsin. She drives with him to work, wanting to spend as much time as possible with him.
So many stories, so little time. It's a normal day on earth. But normal will turn to terror filled with lost loves, lost dreams, lost hopes and the loss of many many souls.
It's September 11, 2001.
She is sitting in her seat trying to catch up on her work during her flight. When she sees two men of Middle Eastern decent walk up the center aisle towards the cock pit. Nearly every passenger watches as the two men slit the throat of one of the stewardesses. There's blood every where. People begin to scream. The two men barge into the cock pit and threaten the pilots. Over severe threats and beatings, the pilots turn over the plane to the two men. The passengers are in shock. Some begin calling their loved ones. While others stay in their seats, to numb to move. One of the men gets on the loud speaker and states that if everyone would be quiet, things will be alright. Everyone listens and obeys. They don't want to end up like the stewardess. The plane takes a sharp right. They are only 24 miles north of New York City.
As the New York City skyline comes into view, the passengers of American Airlines Flight 11 begin to fidget. In the back of the plane a stewardess is on the phone, calmly explaining what is happening to someone on the ground. At this point every passenger begins to realize that they are about to die.
A gentle tear begins to roll down her face. She digs into her carry on looking for a photograph of her family. Her daughter will get married this Saturday and she will not be there. Three beautiful children. That's what he gave her. With tears streaming down her cheeks, she clutches the photograph of the happy family to her heart and begins to pray...
"Our Father, who art in heaven... hallowed be thy name..."
At 8:46:26 A.M. American Airlines Flight 11 impacts the north side of the North Tower of the World Trade Center between the 94th and 98th floors. American Airlines flight 11 was flying at a speed of 490 miles per hour.
He heard a scream followed by a loud explosion. He runs to the window and sees a sight that in his wildest dreams could have never happened. The North tower is on fire. He runs back to his office and grabs his coat and proceeds to the elevator. An announcement comes on "Please stay where you are. Please do not panic. Things are under control." 'Like hell they are!' he thinks. He sees some of his co-workers. They are in shock. He grabs a couple of them and tells them to get out! He runs to the elevators. He presses the button. Out of the corner of his eyes he sees the stairs. "Hell with the elevators, I don't want to get trapped in there!" he states to anyone listening. He runs to the stairs. He begins his decent, so glad that over the years he has kept his body in good shape. He's trying not to panic as he makes his way down. The stairs begin to fill up with more and more people. Some are shoving while some are helping others. He is just trying to make his way out. Five years left. That's all he had. Five damn years left.
He was siting there polishing the rig when he heard it. Man that was loud. He thinks as he hears what seems to be a plane. He walks out of the Fire House just in time to see the plane hit the World Trade Towers. He is stunned. It doesn't seem real. But, he's trained for this. At the top of his lungs he screams everyone we're about to be called out! He jumps into his fire suit as his fellow firemen get into theirs. Within minutes all the fire trucks are heading towards the World Trade Towers. He's hoping it's a small plane. But, deep in his soul he know that this is not small. He will have to draw on the strength of his training and his well built body to get him through this. The thoughts of this weekend have gone to the back of his mind as they get closer to the Trade Towers.
"I was actually in the air, on a Southwest Airlines plane, headed from Nashville to Houston, where I had to change planes and head to Dallas. When we landed I started to walk over to the gate for the plane to take me to Dallas and there were people standing around a TV. I asked what had happened and someone told me that a small plane had crashed into one of the World Trade Towers. I was shocked having been in those towers many times before. I continued to the gate to get my boarding pass and then went back to the TV. Just then the other plane struck. I thought at first that it was a rerun of the original crash, but quickly learned that it was a separate plane. They immediately closed the airport and I was stranded in Texas until Friday, when I was finally able to get a flight back to Nashville via Austin." states Mark Wayne Glasmire. "I was shocked and angry and a little scared. I immediately called my wife to check on the rest of the family. I also had two friends that worked in the towers so I was concerned about them and their families and checked on them as well."
"I was working at a Manufacturing Company at the time and sitting in my office when the girl beside me got a call and was told what had just happened. At first we thought it was an accident but then the second one hit and then we knew what was going on. It is a day I will never forget." replies Elaine Roy of the Roys. "Pure shock and disbelief. Also felt very vulnerable and wanted to go home and be close to my family."
"I was in my jeep driving down the road on my way to work and I turned my radio on just after the 1st plane struck the Trade Tower. I immediately pulled over to listen closer....I couldn't believe what I was hearing. I rushed to my job and turned the television on just as the second plane struck the Tower. It all seemed like slow motion, like it wasn't really happening. It was like a nightmare that just kept getting worse." recalls Preston Brust of LoCash Cowboys. "I was shaken. I was saddened. I couldn't imagine how trapped and scared the people were inside the Towers. I wanted to see everyone get out. I kept thinking they would get out somehow and we would minimize the casualties......but then the Towers started to collapse. Right or wrong.....I immediately wanted those responsible for this to pay for it. "
"I was with my family in Lake Tahoe, California on a mini-vacation. My mother woke me up telling me we were "being attacked" in a voice I will never forget. I actually saw the second plane hit the Twin Towers." states Brian Curtis of Curtis and Luckey. "I didn't know what to think. Of course I was shocked that someone could literally kill thousands of ordinary everyday citizens - non-military. It made me sick to my stomach to think about these people in the course of their everyday life, mothers, fathers, spouses - it still is hard to think of. Any death is terrible - be it military or non-military - but that day the planes hit the Twin Towers that was an unexpected cheap shot."
"I was on my tour bus and woke the band up in time to watch the second plane fly in." states Billy Dean. "At first it seemed like an accident, until the second plane flew in...then it was wait and see !!"
"I was getting ready to go to a meeting about our upcoming fall tour in support of a new record we had just released. I remember seeing the video of the first plane on the TV in my bedroom, and I literally thought it was a movie clip or something. It just didn't seem real. When I finally figured out what was going on I was in shock. It was a very somber tour meeting to say the least." states Point of Grace’s Shelley Breen. "My first reaction was just to pray for the people directly involved in the tragedy-victims, their families. I'm sure I was like most American's at that point, just feeling kind of helpless and at a loss."
"I was at the Tennessee Drivers license bureau." states Charlie Daniels. "My first was shock and anxiety, wondering where it was going to stop. Then anger, then cold anger, the dangerous kind."
Yes, she has always wanted to be a pilot. But, today, she believes that she is lucky to be a stewardess. She tries to be brave, at least for the passengers. But, deep in her heart she is scared. The two men have taken the plane. They keep telling the passengers that everything will be okay if they remain quiet. She walks up and down the aisle trying to calm the passengers. She can see the fear in their eyes. One man, he must have served sometime, for in his eyes he has hope. He looks like he is planning to over take the terrorists. As she passes him, she turns and sees that he is looking around the plane. Hoping that someone will help him. If only he could find someone. She proceeds to the back of the plane. There is nothing to do, but hope and pray. As she sits down and buckles her seat belt. She glances out the window and sees the New York skyline. With a quick second she remembers a night out in New York City with her friends. What a blast they had. Then she see it. The World Trade Towers up a head. They are heading right for them. One has already been hit. She bends her head down and whispers "I love you Mom and Dad!" just before the plane crashes.
He heard the loud bang in his hotel room. He runs to the window and looks out. Nothing there. He walks outside his hotel room and down the hall. He can hear people screaming. Did someone get shot? Maybe he shouldn't be out here. But curiosity gets the best of him. He proceeds down to the main level towards the front desk. That's when he sees it. People outside are stopped and are looking up towards the sky. He walks out to join them. That's when he sees it. The Towers, one is on fire. He's about to ask what happened when someone else screams. He looks back towards the towers just in time to see a second plane hit. He is in shock. He's five blocks away and all he can think about is his buddy. He tries to call him. No service.
They arrive at the scene just as many other Fire Fighters have arrived. He can see that all of the Fire houses will be called out. He get's out and looks up. It's chaos. People are running away screaming. But, he picks up his axe and rushes towards the Chief for instructions. He's told to get up there and see what we can do about the fire. Together, him and his fellow fire fighters run towards Tower 1. Quickly, they head for the stair case. The elevator will be to dangerous. Quickly they climb up the stairs as people try to climb down. It's a slow process. Many times they have to stop to help someone up. He's so glad that he works out on a daily basis. This is a test of his endurance. But, his training kicks in. He has to help those people, it's his job. No fear. Just hope. I can save them, he thinks. As they climb, he can feel the heat from the fire on his face. He pulls down his face shield. But, the heat keeps getting worse. As they progress, they stop at each level checking for heat and flames. They are at the 89th floor and the heat is unbearable. They have oxygen masks on by this time. The proceed carefully, then it happens. It feels like someone just rocked the tower. It feels like the tower is swaying. He looks at his buddy in front of him with a questioning look. He's about to ask 'what was that?' when the floor drops out from under him. He tries to grasp at anything. But, it's like a dream. He keeps falling and falling into an oblivion of the unknown. He knows that this is it as he sees pieces of the building falling with him. His last thoughts were to his wife and son, "I love you both."
He had two floors left to go before he was free from the building. That's when he heard the loudest noise he has ever heard. It almost feels like the building has exploded. He hurries down the stairs. He can see day light as he nears the exit. He runs out and sees the fire fighters with no fear, run into the building. He turns to look up and realizes that the second tower was also hit. He turns and is about to run when he almost trips over a body. He recognizes her. It's one of his co-workers. He stops and bends down to help her. As he kneels down he realizes that she is dead. He looks back at the towers only to see others jumping out from the top. I guess that's better than being burned alive. He touches her shoulder in a mournful way and gets up and runs. He has to get away. He has seen enough, now it's time to leave. He's about one block away when he hears the screams. He stops and looks back. One last look at a building that he worked at for twenty years. All his hard, long hours working up the corporate latter now coming down. He begins to run as a massive cloud of dust and debris chases him. All he can think about is her. Jumping to her death then covered by the building she was trying to escape from. She was beautiful and he would have dated her, if he was her age. But, she was young and he had a beautiful wife and family back home. So instead he was nice to her and she was nice to him. He wonder's if she had family. He needs to know. He needs to tell them what a sweet girl she was. It's his job. He needs to tell them what her last hours were like before she died.
In a small rural town in Wisconsin, a couple gets into their truck after shopping at Target. It's their eighth wedding anniversary. When they start the truck, the radio comes on. KQRS. The number one morning radio show in the world. They pause, listening to the radio. It sounds like KQ is playing "War of The Worlds." But this is real, this is now! New York is under attack. She drives him to work. Once there, she kisses him and heads to Wal-mart for her weekly shopping trip. While walking in she calls her parents and tells them to turn the television on. She walks in to Wal-mart, at the entrance is a large screen television. She walks over to the front desk and tells Elouise to turn the television on. New York is being attacked. As they turn the television on, the second plane hits. Everyone gathers around in shock. The attacks can be felt in our hearts even in rural Wisconsin.
Hudson, Wisconsin is among one of the many hundreds of towns and cities that is the route of many airlines. In Hudson, it's the route from Minneapolis to Chicago. But, on September 11th, it was quiet. It was as if the world stopped turning and everyone on it stopped breathing.
Later we gathered around out television sets for the latest information. All of us were hoping for life beyond the rubble of the World Trade Towers, Pentagon and even in the field in Pennsylvania. We watched as rescuers dug through the rubble. We watched as people held photographs of loved ones, who were missing. We watched as families prayed and hoped.
But, from the ashes hope diminished. We were left with a country in mourning. People were scared and were looking to find some leadership to say "hey, we're okay."
From the ashes rose the phoenix in the image of Uncle Sam. We shall not sit ideally by and let some one come upon our land, our home and attack us with no reason! Lives were lost and it's time for payback! With the ashes still on our backs, we sent our troops to fight the fight.
Ten years later, we are still fighting the fight. Secretly we are still scared. We are always looking over our shoulders for the next terrorist attack. Secretly we wish that we could go back to those innocent years prior to September 11th. But, through history we learn to deal with the future.
Many artists have recorded songs about September 11th. But it's Mark McGuinn's "More Beautiful Today," that says it best...
September 11th, 9 AM
America was born again,
we became brand new,
more beautiful right then,
we found strength in strangers,
Thank God for all our friends,
Held onto our loved ones,
Billy Dean said it best when he said, "I have visited ground zero and if you're still for a minute, you can hear the screams, and the chaos, from that day, seems to be forever imprinted in the air."
The chaos, the screams, the attacks of September 11th. Let us never forget. This September 11th, gather with your family, friends and loved ones and remember. Remember all the feelings that you endured on that fateful day.
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The greatest thing about music is that we can honor, pay tribute and immortalize those who we love. Shortly after this horrific event, many artists paid tribute through song. Here are those songs...
Carry On - Wynonna Judd
Have You Forgotten - Darryl Worley
Heart of A Hero - Steve Holy
More Beautiful Today - Mark McGuinn
The Last Fallen Hero - The Charlie Daniels Band
Wave On Old Glory - Billy Dean
We Will Never Forget - Lucas Hoge
We Will Stand - Irlene Mandrell
Where Were You (When The World Stopped Turning) - Alan Jackson
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