Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette readers share memories of 9/11

The Tribute in Light rises above the World Trade Center Transportation Hub on Friday, Sept. 10, 2021, in New York. Saturday marks the 20th anniversary of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
The Tribute in Light rises above the World Trade Center Transportation Hub on Friday, Sept. 10, 2021, in New York. Saturday marks the 20th anniversary of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

The Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette asked readers to share their memories of where they were during the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Their responses are shared below:

I was working in a hospital in Vermont. The first I heard of what was going on was from a coworker in the office across the hall from me. She handled hospital insurance for the CFO.

-- Deanna DeMars

I was working at McCullough High School in The Woodlands, Texas. I worked in the front office; when we heard the news the principal brought a TV into the conference room so we could see what was happening. Most of us were crying. Our Anniversary was 9/9. On the Saturday after the 9/11 attack my husband had already planned a surprise trip to Seattle for our 40th anniversary. Everyone said we shouldn't fly. But he said the security was so good at that point it was the best time to fly. After 9/11 we all wore flag ribbons or flag pins. I wish we could go back to loving our country as most of us did then.

-- Diane Bray

We had just moved to Arkansas in July of 2001. I had worked a long night shift and was asleep. My husband came and woke me up and told me what happened. I jumped out of bed and watched what happened on TV. I couldn't tear myself away from the news. It was the saddest news I had ever heard. I watched TV every day about what happened. Still can't believe it's been 20 years and unfortunately I believe it will happen again.

-- Elizabeth Holtz

I was adopting three foster children in Benton County. They were a sibling group and the judge said one thing was going to come out good on this day and allowed our adoption to process when they were shutting everything down. I adopted a 16-year-old girl with a baby and a special needs girl age 9. My life forever changed for the better!

-- Forestina Pennington

On vacation in Fort Collins, Colorado.

-- Heide Ledbetter

Well I was in 6th grade, in Pueblo west Colorado. We were in our science class, and our TV that normally only aired the school's student news channel turned on in the middle of the class. Airing the footage, at first all we saw was the first tower was hit. We were just sitting there quiet, our teacher he was crying telling us he grew up in NYC. Then the second one got hit, I remember chaos unfolding in and out of the classrooms. Parents getting their kids out of school in droves. My parents didn't as my dad was serving in the Army at the time. So stayed, but most of my class was gone. I walked home as it was a short distance, and saw my mom crying at the TV. I didn't know the full amount of the impact until I watched more of the news coverage. I remember my dad deploying overseas shortly after, I was scared he would never come back. I too joined the Army when I came of age to do so after I graduated high school, the image of those towers burning/falling in my head, fueled my patriotism to want to serve our country so no other terrorist attack could happen on our soil like that again. I also met my husband in the Army, and he joined for like minded reasons. We will never forget that fateful day, and we pray for the families that lost loved ones to this heartless terroristic attack.

-- Jessica Hubbs

I was on the Fulbright Expressway in Fayetteville listening to NPR and got the first details. Later in the day, I learned that my great-nephew was born the same day.

-- James Harvill

That September morning started out as just a normal day for a small town high school student. Once at school like normal sitting outside the glass doors we see teachers running down the hall, the doors fly open and they began screaming at everyone to get inside to our first hour classes now. Once inside teachers are running down the halls with TVs into every room. I walk into my 1st hour Bio 1 class, the TV is on and everyone is frozen looking at the TV. I turn to see what everyone is looking at to see the twin towers, one of them has a lot of smoke just rolling out of it. The other looks to be fine. As we make our way to our seats some students are just in shock, others are crying. We see people jumping out and then the other building gets hit and starts smoking. As we watch it in that room about 15 of us and our teacher the intercom comes on. They tell us the building is on lock down, nobody is to leave the building and stay in your classrooms until we tell you it is OK. Everyone was scared, sad, and mad. How could this happen, wasn't that a no fly zone? It was lunch time before we were released from the classrooms. We all walked to lunch as a larger group and came back the same way. When we came into the hallways they had pad-locked and chained all doors but one. Parents came to get their kids and were allowed to do so. Kids that had their own cars were not allowed to leave even if the parents called. For the next week we watched as the death toll grew. Many of my friends would go enlist, some who were of age did so as soon as school was over, others did so as soon as they could. For a while afterwards we were united, one goal as a country to find out who was behind it and bring them to justice. America became one for a while, our young went off to fight a war and find the people who killed somebody's loved one. That was the first time I had seen a lockdown and it is something that still sticks with me today. The people jumping knew they were going to die, nobody could fall from that high and live, but they jumped anyways. Sending friends off to war knowing they may never come back home. Seeing the world today and remember back 20 years ago to that day when everything stood still and it really did. Only to see today that our local park we have a wall that has the names of our fallen on it from our town. The highway was named after a local who gave his life for others, and so many did. I turn on the news today to see the toll of 12 killed just today and it takes me back to that day. I turned 16 the next day and I actually forgot about my own birthday and so did most of my family. My grandma called me when I got home and asked me how my day was, told me happy birthday. I hadn't even thought about my birthday, she asked me what I had gotten and I told her I guess nothing. She of course cried because I was only 16 once and nobody remembered it but her. Everything changed from my outlook on the world and what it means to be an adult and how fast a good day can go very bad very fast. How we never know when we leave home if we will return back each day. Not taking things for granted, remembering to be thankful for what I have in the here and now. I always say to my kids have a good day, I love you, when they leave for school because we never know what's next.

-- Kristy Warren

Home. My sister called. Said Have you got the TV on? No. She said, Turn on. Any channel. She hung up. I turned on just in time to see and hear them saying....Oh No! They are going to hit the other tower. I never left the TV and my house for days. Prayed for our nation and everyone. Yes. It changed my life and thinking. Life is so short. We never know what can happen at any time. We are living this today, too.

-- Loretta Taylor

It was an otherwise ordinary Tuesday. Until it wasn't. As I always did, I first dropped my oldest at middle school, then my youngest at preschool. My third stop was the elementary school to volunteer in my middle child's classroom. I sorted take-home papers, stuffed folders, organized books, and had a front row seat to my mischievous son's classroom demeanor. But this day was different from the time I walked through the door. His usually-joyful teacher asked if I could "watch" the classroom for a moment then darted out. She joined a small group of other teachers I could see in a room across the hall circling an audiovisual cart. With smart phones and even internet still not entirely mainstream in our community, the television held authority. After several minutes, the teacher returned to her own room with no color in her face. "Something really big is going on. You should get your son and go home." I called my husband to check what he knew. Though his calm personality wanted to shrug it off, I noticed at least a dozen parents in the school office, preparing to check out children that morning. Less than an hour earlier, the office had been empty. I instinctively joined the swelling line, with my mind racing about how to gather my other two, scattered across town. I felt a panic as I waited, wondering whether to abandon protocol and kidnap my own kid. Once they were all three with me, tears unexpectedly burst out of the momma-bear-calm I had adopted. On the way home, lines at the gas stations wrapped around blocks and I watched the price increase twice while I waited. The relaxed daytime streets in our small town were overflowing with people scurrying, as if none of us knew what to do, but felt we had to be doing something. After what seemed hours, my family arrived home together. My children were thrilled with an unexpected holiday, but it all felt so odd and out of control. Soccer practice and dance rehearsals were cancelled. I stood in my kitchen watching the towers fall again and again on my countertop TV. I called my parents, and we skirted around the haunting uncertainty of what would fall next. My husband and I struggled with how much to tell our children, and how much to take in ourselves. In my early thirties, it was the first time I had been in fear over our homeland safety. It was the first time I felt near the suffering so many had endured globally. As a young mother, that day tore a hole in the security I had attempted to weave for my family. It seemed if the national agenda was not secure, neither was mine. My naivete crumbled as I realized those in authority were just human, like me, doing the best they could with the limited information they had. I knew, even then, I could never be the same mother that had left home early that morning. All over our nation, different parents tucked children into bed that night in a different world than they had woken up to. Then, on 9/12/01, the sun rose over our tenuous globe. But rise it did. And that was the blessing.

-- Lori Ann Wood

I was getting ready for work when I heard the news, and I knew that two of my sons and my husband were in the air. My son Scott, a flight attendant, was told to make an emergency landing in Charlotte after leaving LGA earlier that morning. My husband Lyle, a flight instructor, was told by the tower to land immediately. His aviation student asked if that happened often, and Lyle replied, "First time in forty years." My son Jeff was flying to NYC from Ohio, representing Ohio Wesleyan University. He was excited about staying at the World Trade Center Marriott. Until I learned that the three of them were safely on the ground, it was a rough morning.

-- Marie Clapper

I was at home in Rogers, AR, getting ready to go to work when the first plane hit the towers. I had to leave and go to work as customer service representative talking to Walmart associates about their insurance and as they day went on found out what was going on. It was so hard trying to stay calm and help people with not knowing if everything would be OK. I remember people freaking out also wanting to make sure had gas for their vehicles. -- Marsha Morales

I was in bed reading a book when my wife came in and said "something big" has happened. I immediately got up and began watching coverage of the attack. Then I began recording the coverage on VCR tapes labeled "WAR" as I was convinced that Bin Laden's attack would immediately trigger a swift reaction by President G.W. Bush. I stayed in the house the rest of the day in order to keep up with what was happening while my wife and daughter went swimming in Beaver Lake. My life has changed no more and no less than the lives of all Americans. I thought that any conflict would be over quickly, not 20 years later. Now, I am concerned about domestic terrorism as well as the rise of the Taliban and ISIS.

-- Patrick Frazee

Strangely, I was on the phone with a customer, in Canada, that morning. She paused at one point and asked me if I knew that my country was under attack. I did not have the TV on that morning, but immediately turned it on. It was after both towers had been hit. I asked her if I could call her back, and watched in horror what was happening. To be told by a Canadian that my country was under attack that morning stays with me to this day.

-- James Cox

Newsroom of Northwest Arkansas Times.

-- Maylon Rice

As a Complex Manager in Maryland for Tyson Foods, I put together a cooking team that went to the Pentagon on 9/12 and cooked for rescue and front line workers for 2 weeks.

-- Todd Wilson

I was in a patient's room at the hospital where I worked. The news came on the TV and at first we thought it was a terrible accident, but it soon became apparent it was no accident. People came out of the rooms and just stood in the halls stunned. I just still feel how vulnerable we are to future attacks on our homeland.

-- Nancy Bryant

I will never forget it. I was in my first year teaching in a little town outside of Little Rock. I was actually out with my yearbook staff selling yearbook ads when 9/11 started happening. At the time I remember that nobody knew what was really going on. Rumors were going around that terrorist were bombing the capitals and since we were near the capital we were told to get our students back to the school as soon as possible. Once we got back, I said in my classroom with my students watching the live coverage in disbelief. Some students were crying. I was crying. Other teachers were crying. We just sat in horror watching things unfold. I remember that I prayed a lot that day. I prayed with students that day. It is forever etched in my mind. Watching the towers fall live. Hearing the cell phone conversations from people on the last hijacked plane calling their loved ones to say goodbye. I will never forget. In fact, I actually have the newspaper from September 12 the next day. But I do remember as a ray of hope is how we as a nation came together in the weeks that followed. I saw more examples of patriotism and brotherly love that I had seen in years. And it gave me hope for our nation.

-- Deborah Coffer

Living in Las Vegas, getting ready in the morning for a doctors appointment. I remember telling my husband there was an accident. A plane hit the twin tower building. As I sat and watched. I yelled, it's not an accident. He ran into the room as we watched the second plane hit live. We drove in silence to the appointment. It was on every channel.

-- Eunice Alberson

I'm a retired Captain/Paramedic. I was just beginning my 24-hour shift a Springdale Fire Station 6. We were in the middle of checking our equipment when I walked into the living quarters from the truck bay and saw that Tower 1 had been hit. I called out to the rest of my crew and we watched it all unfold. From that point on our stations were on lockdown unless we were on calls for weeks.

-- Dave Creek

I was sitting in my living room, here in Gentry, watching news when it happened and, like everyone else, I couldn't stop watching. It was just horrible! I was angry, frustrated and somewhat afraid of what happened and wondered what else might happen. But, I, also felt a sense of pride and determination as I heard the various stories of people who were there and told the stories of those who lost their lives and those who saved lives. I felt a deep sense of pride when I saw all of those beautiful flags of red, white and blue waving just everywhere. What's changed in my life since then.

-- Jeanette Eaton

In my office in Memphis, treating Dermatology patients. Heard it over the radio, hadn't seen it on TV yet. We were all in shock in anticipation of the worst to follow. I was scheduled to fly out that day to Allentown, PA. Cancelled because all air travel was cancelled. We prayed a lot as we witnessed the carnage at the WTC. Life has changed for the worst because of our American vulnerability created by Terrorism. I'm very skeptical of our leadership in DC, even more so after the Biden debacle in Afghanistan.

-- James Turner

On that horrible morning, I lived across the bay from NYC in Port Monmouth, New Jersey. I was taking my three children to school. I saw the smoke and thought, "Oh, ExxonMobil must have a fire this morning." A visual that wasn't uncommon to see. It was a seven-minute drive round trip from the house to the elementary school and back home. Upon arriving home, my phone was ringing. Friends in Florida calling to see if I was OK. When I replied, "yes" and asked why, they asked if my television was on. I turned it on to see the first tower had been hit. At that time, it wasn't a terrorist attack in our minds yet. I ended the call and then called my mother who lived nearby and told her. She scolded me saying, "that's not funny!" I yelled at her to turn on the TV! While on the phone, we watched together as the second plane circled in and struck the second tower. My children were in school still. My mother said let them stay there for now. We didn't know what was next. We lived minutes from Earle Naval Weapon Station which is home to nuclear subs and ships. All were in port. After the towers came down we had no television except for ABC for three weeks. The death cloud that came across the bay made all life outside non-existent. The world was devoid of birds chirping, squirrels running around, or other wildlife being seen or heard. No airplanes coming overhead except for fighter jets. I lost eight friends that day. I didn't set foot in NYC until 2017 for the first time and that was to accompany my mother to an oncology appointment at Sloan-Kettering in NYC. To this day, I cannot listen to memorial services or watch footage without crying and reliving that day all over again. It took me 1½ years to get my affairs in order with three kids to move. Out of the 18 years I've been gone now from New Jersey, I have lived 16 years here in Northwest Arkansas. It's a day, like December 6, 1941. A day that we will never forget. What's changed? I am drastically more aware of my surroundings. I am fiercely protective of my family; more so than I was before September 11th. There are many more details about that day but it would take pages to record all of my memories from it, what I was feeling, and more.

-- Leslie Valentin

It was my 17th birthday that day. I remember getting into my car to go to school and hearing on the radio that one plane had hit one of the towers. I thought maybe it was a terrible accident. When I got to school there was news of the second plane. All we did that day in school was watch the news and cry. I didn't feel like celebrating my birthday that day. My grandparents came over that night for dinner and I remember my grandpa talking about Pearl Harbor Day and how to me that seemed so long ago, but it was basically happening again. I remember everyone putting up American Flags and spending more time with family. There seemed to be a sense of community and togetherness. I hope future generations never forget the tragic event and lives lost.

-- Lindsey Bickel

Working on final revisions in book manuscript and, when a friend called to tell me to turn on TV I resisted. She insisted. Cannot describe the unbelief and horror I felt, followed by the obvious "WHY?" question. I stayed glued to the TV and other news all day and the book revision was late getting sent to my publisher. She understood!

-- Radine Nehring

I was at work. At Cox Communications. My job was customer service. I was always first in, so I would go around the office turning on TVs. My cousin worked with me. I remember she and I just got coffee and sat down to watch a morning show before we started work. All of a sudden every TV in the room was full of the report a plane hit first tower. We were in disbelief. Not sure what was going on. Others trickled in and we all just stood or sat frozen to TVs. But we had to answer telephones and get to work. I don't remember one call that day. I do remember people calling in upset, wanted cable installed that day (we couldn't do same day). Others were calling to hear a friendly voice, cry with us and basically get information they thought we would have. After that day, I personally never cried. It's weird I had no emotion. I feel numb to that day. I have since quit that job, because of a medical issue. Gotten divorced. Moved. Got a granddaughter.

-- Shontell Stapleton

I was at Naval Bootcamp, Great Lakes, IL. I remember coming out of class and our RDC told us that the World Trade Center had been attacked by terrorists. That evening they brought a TV into our barracks and let us see the news coverage and the World Trade Center collapse. It didn't feel real. Many of us wondered if this was an exercise. There was a real sense that nothing would ever be the same as we understood it.

-- Timothy Hendrix

My wife, 6-year-old daughter, and I were in Rome, Italy, on 9/11. The terrorist attacks occurred in the afternoon in Italy. I was out looking at art galleries while my wife and daughter were in the hotel room. My wife had CNN on the TV. When I came back to the room, my wife told me what happened. I was in shock. That night, the Mayor of Rome had letters slid under the hotel doors of Americans expressing condolences and asking if there was anything they could do. The next morning we were invited to a Papal Audience (10,000-12,000 people). It was very somber as you would expect. On that Saturday, we were scheduled to return to the States. It is a terrible feeling to be away from home when your country is attacked. We were on one of the first planes allowed to fly back. Security at the Rome airport was extremely heavy. Our plane had the bare minimum number of flight attendants required. When we touched down in Chicago, everyone broke into applause.

-- Timothy Kral

I was at home and had Good Morning America on the television. My husband had just flown out of Tulsa that morning heading for the East Coast. I walked into the living room in time to see Diane Sawyer's face after the first plane hit tower one. Then within seconds the second plane hit tower two. As I sat there in disbelief as to what was happening, my thoughts immediately turned to my husband. I went into panic mode. I tried calling his phone but it went straight to voicemail. Then the Pentagon was hit and the fourth plane was down. Still frantic and not knowing where my husband was and processing how many people had lost their lives and there was total chaos. I immediately called everyone I knew and asked them to start praying for Tony's safety. I can't remember how much time passed before I got the call. They had brought his plane down in Kansas City. He said it was complete chaos in the airport. Fortunately his company had called ahead and reserved him a rental car. There was a fireman on the same flight that lived in Tulsa and couldn't get a car. Tony drove him back to Tulsa before he came home. There were so many emotions when he walked in the door. I thank God that his flight didn't leave any sooner. It seems like we were mesmerized for weeks with the horrible news that was on TV. Just unbelievable. My husband didn't fly for awhile and neither did I. Such a tragedy that changed lives forever. Count your blessings every day.

-- Toni Brown

I was walking through the lobby at my office in Portland, Maine, and there were ten or so co-workers there watching the televisions. I stopped and thought the first plane was just a tragic accident. Then the second plane hit and we knew something was terribly wrong. We scattered back to our computers and started reaching out to our N.Y. clients. I was on the team that managed the Mr. Peanut Peanutmobile and we had a vehicle in NYC for a morning TV spot. We focused on how to get our team and a 12' tall peanut out of Manhattan while calming each other and praying for those we knew in and near the Twin Towers. Once the team reported they were out of the city, we cheered. We were told we could go home and very few of us did. We kept waiting for news, or to hear from friends, families, loved ones, staff and clients. Sadly, not all the news was good.

-- Ruth Wallin-Davis

I was working in Springdale, Arkansas, at Southwestern Bell. I am more careful of my surroundings and know that anything can happen even on U.S. soil!

-- Don Jones

On that morning I was working at the Regional Jet Center at XNA. I was refilling a fuel truck at the fuel storage facility. While I was standing on top of the truck monitoring the refill, the supervisor came to tell me that a plane had struck the World Trade Center. I thought it must be a small aircraft with engine trouble. A few minutes later he came back to tell me another plane had struck the building. I knew then that something bad had happened. I finished filling the truck and parked at the Jet Center. Everyone was glued to the TV. For the next hour we watched in horror. Then the planes started landing at XNA and we parked plane after plane, small and large, on the tarmac row after row until there were no planes in the air in our air space. After that we were told we could go home or finish our shift. I went home numb with horror of it all. I watched for the next three days in shock as the tragedy unfolded. I thought this must have how my felt on December 7, 1941. The next week we went back to work as planes were released back to service. Nothing was the same at XNA after that. For weeks there was military at the airport. Everyone was checked and rechecked. From then until the day I retired in 2016 security was tight. Badges were issued and it must be visible at all times.

-- Robert Holloway

I was in seminar class my senior year at BHS. Our teacher was told to turn on the TV and we watched as the second tower got hit. Not too long after school was dismissed and I remember my father picking me up and talking about how this was going to impact America.

-- Ashley Gildehaus

9 11 2001 Where Was I? I would also like to not only address the 9/11 attack but relate it to the Oklahoma City bombing. On 9/11 my son, Calvin, and I were sitting in the waiting room of my Oncologist's Clinic. I was there for lab work and thorough check up. This was part of my treatment plan after every chemo treatment. It was an in between hospital chemo treatment for AL Leukemia and prognosis checkup. It determined whether I went back into the hospital for another two to three weeks in isolation due to infections or another round of chemo. Of course, I was not at the top of my game at that point. However, the horror and unbelief we both felt as we watched the bombing is indescribable. I could not and still cannot fathom the hate that someone has to possess to purposely take the lives of innocent people they do not even know. These were the same thoughts I had back in April 1995. Yes, we were more than just shocked on 9/11 just as we were when the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, on April 19, 1995, was attacked. On that day I was on my second hour free period and stepped into the school media center office as the bomb went off. My son was in the hospital after having emergency surgery to save his life. Due to a medical mistake while in the hospital, he was overdosed on a medication he was allergic to. My first gratitude as the bomb exploded was thankfulness my daughter had turned down a job there the week before. She would have been working in the worst hit area. I was later grateful family members were able to get out safely. What was my immediate thought and prayer both times? God please be with all those who were involved; victims and their families as well as the first responders. My prayers continued throughout all the aftermath for the safety of all those involved in bringing order back. My prayers still continue for all those same people because of the effects this horrible ordeal brought to their lives; mentally, spiritually, physically, financially and all other aspects. I am more of a patriot than I was before. As a widow of an Arkansan 20 plus years as an Army service member who loved his country second only to God, I love our country. If you have ever sat in a movie theater in another country (as we did in Germany in the sixties) and watched that beautiful giant flag wave on the giant screen you understand what I mean. After fifty plus years I can still picture it flying which still brings tears and chills. Just to remember its significant meaning related to our freedoms is almost impossible to express. I will continue to pray that God will be brought back to where He should be. The future of our country depends upon we the citizens taking responsibility for our thoughts, behaviors and actions. We are not here alone. This land does not belong just to me nor you. We have been blessed to share the legacy it has provided since the landing of the first inhabitants searching for a new home and new opportunities.

-- Agnes Crawford

I left Springdale, AR, on 9/11/01 and flew to Tahlequah, OK, where I picked up passengers and was on my way to Lincoln, NE. About halfway there, I got a message over the radio from Center to land at the nearest airport due to a national emergency. I was 16 miles from Emporia, KS, so I landed there. There were no rental cars available to return home, so I spent two nights in Emporia. A company from Wichita gave my passengers and me a ride home. A week later, I was able to return to Emporia to pick up my plane.

-- Larry Imel

I was in my kindergarten classroom, teaching my students. A partner teacher came to the door and asked to speak to me in the hallway. He told me that a plane had just flown into the WTC. He watched my class for a moment while I went to the teacher lounge to see the latest news on the TV. It was all surreal. The scene looked like I would expect to see in another country, not the United States. A bit later, I watched in horror as a tower fell. I had to pull myself together, put a smile back on my face, and go back to my sweet kindergarten students and continue teaching like nothing happened. It was so hard. I do remember the rumors flying about gas shortages, possible other attacks, etc. I waited for the landline phone to open up to call my husband who reassured me that gas was still in the area. I remember walking to my car that afternoon to pick up my two small children and looking at things totally differently. Suddenly everyone seemed suspicious. Nothing seemed real. And I knew we were forever changed as a country.

-- Rebecca Cloud

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