SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

September 8, 2011

READERS' MEMORIES: SEPT. 11, 2001


After I was laid off from my job, I started mall walking at the Northshore Mall in Peabody. As I was leaving the mall I put the radio on in my car on the way to pick up my mother to take her out shopping. That is when I heard that the first tower was hit. After I arrived at my mother's, I saw the second tower fall on TV. My mother and I did not leave to go shopping because I had to stay and watch more about that day which was very upsetting. I will never forget it.

Donna Kelley

Peabody

• • •

It started as a regular workday. I was at the GE plant in Lynn and had walked across Western Avenue to the company credit union. As I crossed the street to return, just after 8:30 a.m., I remember noticing what a particularly beautiful day it was. The sunshine and clear blue sky made it a picture-perfect day. Upon returning to my office area, there was confusion and chaos. People were gathering in a conference room, and the TV was on. We were all trying to understand what was happening and watched in shock and horror as it all unfolded. At first, it looked like an accident, with a plane crashing into one of New York City's Twin Towers. The second plane hit, and we later saw both towers crumble down in front of our eyes. We all just sat in disbelief and speculated. The reporters gave details of other planes going down in Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania, and all other flights were grounded.

We also learned there was a chance that a fellow Lynn GE worker, Janis Lasden, may have been on one of the flights and later learned that it was true. She was heading to Palm Springs, Calif., with her boyfriend, Don DiTullio, for a vacation. We found out she had asked another GE co-worker to deliver a patchwork quilt that she had made to the Topsfield Fair, since she would be away and would not be able to deliver it herself.

After that day, the gate that I used to get to the credit union was closed and has never reopened to vehicular traffic. Personally, I remember feeling literally sick to my stomach for a few weeks after the attack. How our lives changed forever on that beautiful, sunny, late summer morning in 2001.

Jean Soboczinski

Salem

• • •

My wife and I were on vacation at a resort on Long Island Sound. Very nice weather. Right on the water. Having a good time. It was about our fourth day when the attacks happened. Someone came out to the pool and told us a plane had hit the tower. We went to our room and watched the news.

We could not believe it. And, we were fairly close to New York City. Our hearts sank. We were so distraught and upset. There was no way we could continue the vacation stay to enjoy. There would be no enjoyment!

We had to pack and go home. Our hearts simply could not allow us to enjoy when so many lives and families were affected.

Jeff Gordon

Marblehead

• • •

This story has become our generation's Pearl Harbor; a day that will live in infamy. I still remember every minute of that day even though 10 years have passed. I had just dropped my daughter off at daycare and tuned the radio to the news. The first plane had just hit and there was very little information. I stopped back at my home and turned on the television. As the newscasters were trying to sort out just what had happened, the second plane hit. I can still see it in my mind's eye. Somewhat shocked, I headed into work at Beverly Hospital. The secretaries had a music station on and were not aware of the news. They tuned in while I went in with my first patient. When I emerged, the plane had hit the Pentagon. We spent the next hour crowded around a small, snowy TV in the conference room watching the story unfold.

I left work, picked up my mother and spent the rest of the day glued to the TV. As a nurse, my colleagues and I discussed the possibility of heading to New York to help with the survivors. Hours later, it became apparent there were no survivors. In the next days and weeks, neighbors and families gathered, speaking in quiet tones as we shared our evolving stories, pausing and looking up every time a solitary plane would fly over. We all changed that day. Many of us lost our innocence and feeling of security. We discovered a fierce patriotism that had previously been lost to cynicism and distrust. More importantly, many of us developed a new perspective of the value of love and family; gratitude for the many blessings and freedoms that we, as Americans, expect to live with everyday.

Liz Hunt

Hamilton

• • •

I was in a open field in Prairie City, Ore., population 7. Don MacQuarrie and I were on a 500-mile "Cycle Oregon" bike trip with 2,000 other bicycle riders. I was in my tent and was awoken by the sound of spinning helicopter blades. Two military transport helicopters came to pick up what I can only assume were some important personnel who were on the ride. I hustled to the mess tent and people had surrounded the SAG (support and gear) vehicle and were listening to the radio. At that moment in time we were only aware of the planes crashing into the Twin Towers in New York. I can't remember if it had been determined that it had been a terrorist act during that early news report. It was not until the end of the day's ride that we were able to find a bar, watch televised news and find a telephone. It was only then that I realized the attacks had occurred across the Hudson River from Fairleigh Dickinson College where my daughter was attending. She told me she could see the smoke from the towers over the city and several students had rushed home to their families because they had parents who worked at the World Trade Center.

Allen Morris

Wenham

• • •

I hadn't heard the news and was rushing to meet another mom for a play date with our 2-year-olds on Nahant Beach. So, I heard the news from another lady who had a radio while on the beach.

Being nine months pregnant, I had weird cravings and was gnawing on a raw potato. At first I thought it was all a spoof like H.G. Wells' "War of the Worlds." But the planes were not flying, the beach was semi-closed and the large oil tanks in view started to seem too close...

Susan Burnett-Halling

Wenham

• • •

In September, 2001, my husband Jack and I and 22 other American artists were visiting Berwick-Upon-Tweed, England, enjoying a painter's "work-holiday."

On Sept. 11, we all headed out to create our masterpieces, be it in oils or watercolors. After lunch we traveled to a tidal island, Lindisfarne, not far from Berwick, which is accessible by road only at low tide, where our group enjoyed painting the Old Priory and many ancient buildings on what had once been known as The Holy Island.

When we returned ashore, we were greeted by other tourists saying "Did you know that an airplane has crashed into a New York building?" Then someone else told us a plane had crashed into the Pentagon. My first thought was that all this chatter was how bad rumors get started.

When we returned to our hotel, we got the story on CNN, and we were all shocked. They reported that all airports in the United States were closed. We had been in England only three days, but how would we get home? We were prepared to stay only two weeks. The TV kept telling us how much money was being lost by keeping the airports closed, and I felt that they would soon be opened.

"Just fly the plane to Montreal and we'll find our way home" was my thought.

On Sept. 13 our group was honored with a reception at Town Hall, hosted by the town fathers. What an honor, and when we left the reception, the numerous granite steps were covered with flowers, placed there by the town's citizens. That gesture evoked an emotional response from all of us.

The artists kept on painting, and we would soon learn that our flight would be leaving as scheduled. Our half-loaded jet landed at Logan Airport on September 20 with a loud "hooray," thankful to be back on American soil.

Phyllis Jones

Peabody

• • •

My sister, Stephanie (LeBell) Bradley and her family moved from Boxford to Connecticut to Arizona in 1995. Her husband traveled extensively and, as a result, she benefited from his frequent flyer miles. She visited Massachusetts several times a year, especially on her birthday, which falls in August.

Every flight she took in the past was on United. This particular trip, she explained to her husband that, "This time, I don't want to make a stop in Denver or Chicago, I want to go directly to Boston and back." Reservations were made on another airline.

Her birthday stretched out several weeks. On departure day, my husband drove her to the airport. Within a couple of hours, they were back. Had she stayed with United, she would've been one of the victims of 9/11.

Moral to the story: Rejoice and appreciate the gift of life you've been given.

Martha Liversage

Salem

• • •

On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, I flew to Washington, D.C., for a congressional hearing. I left Logan Airport about 20 minutes before the hijacked planes. While waiting for the hearing to begin, I was visiting with congressional staff when someone told us to look at the TV - a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. Expecting to see a small Piper plane, I was shocked to see the size of the flames and damage, but it did not register that this wasn't an accident. We continued to talk, waiting for the hearing to start, glancing off and on at the TV. Then a plane hit the Pentagon. Another plane hit the second World Trade Center tower. We could see smoke billowing across D.C. There was a rumor that the White House was the next target. We were ordered to evacuate the congressional office building.

When we came out onto the streets of Washington, it was chaos. Offices, schools, federal buildings were all closing down; people were flooding into the streets; cars and taxis were in grid lock. I had only come to D.C. for the day so I had nowhere to stay. Fortunately, I was with a National Park Service person who offered to give me a ride to her home to Pennsylvania. I accepted, but first we had to get her car. It took us an hour to reach the garage where she parked. When we got there, the garage was closed. Luckily, one of the garage staff was an entrepreneur. Standing in the rear ally of the garage, for $20 and the keys, he fetched patron's cars.

Once we had her car, it was still impossible to move around D.C. so we had lunch and then finally the traffic cleared. As we left D.C., we passed police at the entry points - all roads into the city were blocked. The drive to her home was strange. It was still a beautiful fall day, sunny and clear, and we stopped at a farm stand to buy vegetables - but there was this terrible, heavy feeling to everything. The magnitude of what had happened was very difficult to take in. The next day, I caught a train from Harrisburg, Pa. to Boston. When it went through New York, I could see the lower end of Manhattan covered in a pall of smoke.

Annie Harris

Salem

• • •

On our way to New Hampshire on I-95 this car went by us going at least 80 to 90 with a Massachusetts trooper right behind him, lights and sirens going. A little way up the road, both cars stopped. The driver of the first car ran right up to the trooper's car. Next thing, we saw both cars going 80 to 90 right by us, with the trooper in the lead. When we got to our cottage and turned on the TV, we saw what was happening in New York. We think the first car's driver was a pilot going to Pease Air Force Base.

Ray and Marion Brown

Peabody