SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

September 7, 2011

Readers' memories: Sept. 11, 2001


On Sept. 11, 2001, I was traveling to Dallas, Texas, for a business meeting. I was on a Delta flight that left Logan Airport shortly after the airplane hit the first tower. My flight included a connection through Atlanta. When we were over New York City, the pilot announced that if you were sitting on the left side of the aircraft you could see that the World Trade Center was on fire. This seemed odd and also concerning, as two women from my company were supposed to be at One Liberty Plaza (right next to the World Trade Center) at a customer site, conducting training. I would have been there also had I not had the Dallas meeting to attend.

Shortly after the announcement regarding the "fire," the pilot told us that a plane had struck the tower, which seemed even stranger than his first comment. I tried not to think much about it and remembered reading about a plane hitting the Empire State Building in the '40s or '50s, so I thought it might be a small commuter plane that had a problem. I became very concerned when the pilot announced that the other tower had been hit. I called my manager in Dallas to ask her to check on my colleagues on the ground in New York. She sounded strange, but did not disclose what was going on and asked me to call her when I landed in Atlanta. For the remainder of the flight, we had no further updates. It was not until we got on the ground that the pilot communicated what had happened and said all air travel had been suspended.

There was no cell service, and I called my parents on a pay phone. They were frantic, and relieved to hear from me. I called my manager, who assisted with making hotel arrangements. I had considered renting a car and driving home right then, but could not get through to any rental companies. My luggage was checked through to Dallas and the airline would not release it so all I had were the clothes on my back, a cellphone with a low battery (and no charger) and my laptop. I finally got a shuttle to the Sheraton Galleria and stayed until Thursday.

A friend of my niece was stranded in Atlanta also and had a rental car that she had not turned in. We headed back to Boston Thursday afternoon and arrived at Logan on Friday night. It was the strangest feeling when she dropped me off at Central Parking, where garage employees in golf carts were giving people rides to their cars. They did not charge me for parking. It dawned on me later that there were people going to retrieve cars for loved ones who were not going to return, and that was most likely the reason for the escort and the waived parking fees.

I dropped off my niece's friend at her mother's condo in Revere. There were paper bag luminaries lit all the way down the beach. I sobbed all the way home as it finally struck me how close I came to being one of the people who were murdered that day. And I also mourned for all the innocent victims of the terrorists who took their lives. I will never forget that day as long as I live.

Linda Turcotte

Beverly

My memory of 9/11 begins with our last sight of the Twin Towers, on Labor Day 2001. We were driving over the Tappan Zee Bridge and I looked down the Hudson River to see them gleaming in the sunlight. I am sorry to say that my impression was that they were too big for their lower Manhattan neighborhood.

On 9/11, I stopped at the Eaton Drugstore on Canal Street on my way to work at Salem State. A radio was on and the pharmacist said, "That's the second plane that hit." I asked what was going on. "A plane hit the World Trade Center and it's in flames." I decided to go home for a while before going on to work.

I turned on the television just in time to see a replay of the plane hitting the South Tower. I called my secretary and told her to get money, groceries, gasoline and her kids and to go home. Reports about bombs in Washington, D.C., made me think that we were at war. I watched the North Tower collapse behind a stunned Aaron Brown on CNN. I called my husband, who could not leave his high school until his students' parents returned home. My sister was stranded in downtown Boston when the subway was shut down. I tried calling everyone I knew in New York and Washington.

I never made it to work. Governor Swift shut down state government at 11 a.m. and I stayed glued to the television for hours.

Pat Markunas

Salem

I had just pulled into the Beverly Hospital parking lot to have my third child. It was about 8:45 a.m. and my husband and I heard about the first plane crash on the radio. I thought it was strange but didn't think much of it and went into the hospital to have my baby. A lot of commotion started in the hospital, but I was more focused on having a baby than what was going on in the rest of the world. My daughter Caroline was born later that afternoon, so 9/11 has a whole different meaning for our family and everyone always remembers her birthday.

Louise Kennedy

Beverly

I was deep in thought at my desk when someone poked their head into my office in Wakefield and yelled to come quick and watch the TV in the company's conference room.

Every channel you turned to, it was the same unbelievable story. A plane had crashed into one of the towers at the World Trade Center. As we watched, another plane hit the second tower. Then we heard about the Pentagon and then possibly the White House.

There were reports that two of the flights had originated in Boston. There were reports that several other planes may be involved. My chest began to feel a suffocating weight.

It had just dawned on me that my parents were flying out of Boston that morning on an American Airlines flight to Fort Lauderdale. They were on their way to help settle my grandmother's estate. She had passed away just one week before. The funeral was in New Jersey and I remember noticing the magnificent Twin Towers buildings as we flew over them before landing at LaGuardia. I remember saying to my son, "The two towers are uneven. One is higher than the other!" This would be the last time I would ever see those towers.

It took me three hours to finally locate my parents, who had landed safely in Florida. They were oblivious to what was unfolding in the nation until they learned of the tragedy on an airport restaurant's TV as they departed the plane. They were unable to return to Massachusetts until almost two weeks later when the airlines began to fly again.

We were one of the lucky families, as so many others flying out that day were not. My grandmother's favorite saying was, "You put your problems in a pot with everyone else's and you will always take out your own." I think she was watching over my parents that day.

Susan Frankfort

Danvers

I was driving from Beverly to work in Bedford. I had to go to Midas on Middlesex Turnpike and was told it would be a longer wait because one guy did not come to work because his girlfriend was on the plane.

Also found out that our vice president of marketing was supposed to be on the flight from Boston but missed his flight. He is now alive and CEO of a local Boston company.

Vinny Egizi

Beverly

I was on the 8 a.m. shuttle from Boston to LaGuardia on 9/11. The pilot had no idea what had happened as he told us to look out the cabin windows to see the first tower burning from the first plane strike.

We landed and I took a taxi to make my 10 a.m. meeting in the city. There was no announcement that the bridges and tunnels had all been shut down. As we drove toward the city, the World Trade Center, with one tower burning, was in front of us on the horizon. We saw the second plane hit the second tower.

My day became a long day with unbelievable acts of kindness by strangers and of contemplation of how I was living my life. My taxi driver, watching me try unsuccessfully to call home on my cellphone, offered to drive me to his apartment so I could use his phone. After trying several routes with lines of cars not moving, he said he could not get me to the city and drove me to a train station. No trains came. After an hour, I walked out and hailed a taxi to return to the airport.

At the airport, when I learned that it and all tunnels and bridges were closed, I decided I needed a ferry to get off the island. I went to a car rental station. People with reservations would not be coming, so car rental companies were renting everything they had, but they turned down some people who had been on my flight for being too young. I dropped them off on Long Island.

A line of cars five miles long was waiting to get on the ferry. I decided I would have a better chance of walking on and found the closest rental office, to turn in the car. The manager said the ferries were taking emergency equipment into the city and if I did get on one, I would end up sitting on the curb until morning, trying to get a ride. He started calling Orient, at the end of Long island, and after a dozen tries made me a reservation on a ferry there.

Driving to Orient, I heard the stories of the tragedies unfolding in New York, Pennsylvania and Washington on the radio. I wished I was with my family. I later learned that my daughter, a 12-year-old at the Village Street School in Marblehead, had heard that a plane from Boston had crashed in New York and, knowing I was on such a plane, became extremely upset. I waited until after midnight before getting a ferry at Orient.

We moved from Cambridge to Marblehead in 1992 so our children could have a more typical life. That move resulted in two hours (or more) a day commuting to a large Boston law firm where the name of the game was long billable hours. I thought long and hard about the limited available time to spend with my family and my community, and decided to make a major change.

By the end of September 2001, I left my Boston firm and hung a shingle in Marblehead. I now had much more time to spend with my family and invest in my community, where I became involved in a number of nonprofits. As bad as Sept. 11 was, it led me to re-evaluate priorities and to live a more rewarding and valuable life.

Brian LeClair

Marblehead

My wife and I came to the "surface" from The Living Seas, an underwater-themed exploration base at Epcot's Future World in the Walt Disney World Resort, when a man in a Disney staff shirt approached us and asked us to leave the park. The man was fairly pale and looked shocked as he told us the park was closing due to the fact that the Pentagon and the World Trade Center were bombed. Initially and for a split second, being in the fantasy world of Epcot, I perceived this to be part of the show until I said "what?" He then stated, "Planes flew into the Pentagon and the World Trade Center and they're gone." That's when I said "what" again, and looked at my wife with a gaping mouth. It was the first time and only time that Walt Disney World had ever closed, because they believed that Disney was a possible target. I said to my wife, "As with the JFK assassination, we will all remember where we had been this day."

We were able to return to the parks as normal the next day and Disney permitted us to stay an extra night free of charge because planes were still not allowed to fly. The passengers were on edge while returning home on one of the first flights after the attacks. Everyone had a close eye on anyone who would get up from their seat. At one point, the pilot came on the intercom stating that if we look out the left side of the aircraft we could see the World Trade Center site. I was confused because the sky was well overcast below us. Once I looked out I understood. Out from the clouds came a column of smoke rising far into the sky, then taking a 90-degree turn over the ocean in the winds of the upper atmosphere.

John Lockerbie

Beverly

I was at Logan Airport collecting documents for an import coming in. I was taken aback by how much traffic there was. Normally, at that time in the morning, the airport is relatively quiet.

Then, I heard on WBZ that an airplane hit one of the towers. I knew instantly something was wrong. Being in the airfreight business for almost 30 years, you never hear of planes hitting buildings, especially commercial planes.

A sad, sad day for me. I will never, ever forget. My heart goes out to all the victims' families.

Jody Sharkey

Peabody