Islander remember 9/11 a decade later
Sunday will mark the 10-year anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001, one of the darkest days in United States history. On that tragic day 10 years ago, 19 al-Qaeda terrorists coordinated a series of suicide attacks by hijacking four commercial airliners with intentions of using four separate U.S. landmarks as targets.
Nearly 3,000 Americans perished that day, and countless others had their lives changed forever. This Sunday, Sept. 11, the Jamestown Fire Department will remember the 9/11 attacks. From sun up to sun down, an Honor Guard will stand alongside the 9/11 Memorial in the garden outside of the Fire Department’s Memorial Museum – the memorial is a section of steel from the World Trade Center.
Also, a fully dressed JFD Honor Guard will join the Rhode Island State Police in a memorial observance outside of the State House on Capitol Hill in Providence. The program will begin at 8:30 a.m. and end at 10 a.m., and guest speakers will include Governor Lincoln Almond and Attorney General Peter Kilmartin.
Here at the Jamestown Press, we asked islanders where they were and how they felt during the attacks on the U.S. Nearly every American was affected that day, and Jamestowners were no exception.
More than a dozen people with island connections wrote in to share their experiences – here are excerpts from some of the letters we received:
“I was at the Copley Place Hotel in Boston attending the annual conference for the International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association,” wrote Marion Pierce of Beacon Avenue. At the conference, Pierce was among associate members from foreign countries as well as a “large United States contingency representing almost every state.”
According to Pierce, just as the conference had gotten underway, one of the brass came on stage and interrupted the speaker: a major incident had just taken place in New York City. A moment later, the major incident was confirmed – an airliner had flown into the 1 World Trade Center, also known as the North Tower. The conference was canceled.
“Bedlam ensued,” said Pierce, “as many in attendance were from the New York Port Authority whose headquarters were located in the World Trade Center. They furiously tried using their cell phones to contact their offices and co-workers to no avail.”
Pierce said that with all air traffic grounded indefinitely, people at the conference were scrambling for ways to get home. “A lady I met was from Canada and they could not leave as the borders had been closed to Canada and Mexico.” A group from Texas – 2,000 miles from Copley Place – rented vans in order to get back to their families.
“All in all, it was a traumatic time. We all wish the terrorists had not taken so many lives and disrupted the whole United States’ population forever,” Pierce said.
Rev. Kevin Lloyd of St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church and his wife, Julia, were overseas in London when the planes struck the towers. The couple was living in the footman’s flat in the top tower of the Lambeth Palace, as Lloyd was working with the Archbishop of Canterbury on speeches and public appearances.
“I can’t tell you what exactly I was doing when the phone rang, but I was deeply into it and it took me a moment to register when Kevin said to me, ‘A plane has hit the World Trade Center,’” wrote Julia Lloyd. “I turned to the computer to see if I could find out more, but the Internet was overloaded. Finally, I wandered back into the palace to the press office where they had the television on and from almost 3,500 miles away, I watched as a second plane hit the second tower. I remember realizing straight away that it couldn’t be an accident.”
Julia Lloyd said that she remembers having friends in the D.C. area – at Georgetown University – where she had been a Protestant chaplain. “When the first tower tumbled to the ground, I cried and left the pressroom to try to return to my office and see if I could communicate with friends and family in the U.S.,” she said. “All throughout that afternoon, I would check back in the press office and I remember feeling extremely isolated and far away. All flights in and out of the U.S. were grounded for a week or so and it was a bit frightening to know that even if I wanted to, I could not go home.”
When they left for England in August 2001, Julia Lloyd said that they had “no idea that we would never return to the same country.” When they did return four months later, she said that the atmosphere had changed: American flags were everyone, security was much more prevalent, and people had become nervous about travel.
Although Julia Lloyd flew home from Uganda on the day of the 1997 embassy bombings in Africa and it didn’t change the way she traveled, she said that, “I didn’t think much then about what it all meant – it took Sept. 11 to make me reexamine what it is to be a Christian and an American in a world where most people are not.”
Barbara Loane, of Washington, D.C., was on the island just prior to the attacks visiting her sister, Joyce, on Columbia Road.
After Joyce left for work, Bar- bara finished her breakfast around 8:45 a.m. and got in her car to head home, by way of Syracuse. She said that the radio station was playing the Beatles, “song after song,” and then it was announced that a plane had flown into the North Tower. After the quick newsflash, the station went back to the Beatles.
“I though it was a plane accident,” Barbara Loane said. “Then Dan Rather or some other TV voice came on and announced an airplane had flown into the second tower. They then began to analyze the situation. The music stopped. I now thought something terrible was happening.”
By this time she was in Syracuse, and Loane got off at the next exit and called her family. “I called my son in Boston, my mom and dad outside of Washington, D.C., and my sister, and they all advised me to stay in Syracuse.”
She drove back to Washington, D.C. a few days later to see America flags draped over the overpasses. Loane went the next nine years before she decided to watch the footage.
“I only saw the ‘live’ broadcast of this terrible day last year,” she said. “It still makes me gasp to see the footage.”
Pem and Fritz Attaway of Decatur Avenue were living in Falls Church, Va., at the time, just 10 miles from the Pentagon, which was hit shortly after the collisions into the Twin Towers. According to Pem Attaway, her husband was working right across from the White House when she heard of the attacks.
“I had just said good bye to him when the paving truck pulled up for our driveway,” she said. “The driver told me about the plane into the Twin Towers and while he was listening to the news, the plane hit the Pentagon. I immediately tried to call my husband to come home as the White House was bound to be next. Needless to say, cell service was sketchy at best and coming home was impossible at this point.”
Jennifer Krider was also living elsewhere during the attacks. Along with her boyfriend, Dan (now her husband), the couple was residing in Stamford, Conn., where Jennifer worked as an office manager for the city of Norwalk, Conn.
“A woman ran down the hallway toward my desk yelling, ‘The World Trade Center was hit by a plane,’” said Jennifer Krider. “My boss emerged from a meeting about five minutes later, at which time I told him what was going on. He said to me, ‘My wife works there.’ He walked into his office, shut the door and called his wife. I was so scared for him. After about 15 minutes he came out of his office in relief and said, ‘I forgot that she was home from work today.’”
The next day, one of Krider’s good friends called her in tears. “She was a new mother, her husband was at the World Trade Center, and she was terrifi ed that he wouldn’t return home,” Krider said. “So I drove to Mahopac, N.Y., and stayed with her the night of Sept. 12.”
Fortunately, her friend’s husband returned home, “a hero like the rest of the NYC firemen and women.”
As for Krider, she was without her future husband. “Dan had that particular week off, so I was alone in our apartment while he was here in Jamestown. I couldn’t wait for Friday night to come so I could drive here and get away from Stamford, away from the tragedy of it all. I got here sometime before midnight, took one look at Dan and cried for 45 minutes.”
Along with the obvious anxiety surrounding 9/11, the attacks that day affected Lee Waterbury professionally. Waterbury, a resident of Jamestown and Northampton, Mass., was working as a sale representative in the travel and entertainment department of the Providence Journal.
“We handled the advertising for the airlines, cruise ships, resorts, and most of the content found in the daily Lifebeat section of the paper,” said Waterbury. “Part of our job was the expectation that we were to ‘kill’ airline industry ads for about three days if a plane crash occurred anywhere that got a lot of attention. The thinking behind the protocol was that the industry knows through experience that travelers will not book flights following a plane crash.”
According to Waterbury, after the first plane hit, “We readied ourselves for the onslaught of cancellation calls from the other ad agencies that would surely follow, but shortly after the first call, we got another call about the second plane hitting the remaining tower.
“Then, we got calls about the crash into the Pentagon and into the field in Pennsylvania. Then the phones rang off the hook with other frantic ad agency people canceling all advertising.
“The phones went silent after an hour or so and we didn’t know what to do with ourselves. I think most of us wanted to leave, but our managers reminded us that we worked for a large metropolitan newspaper, and we needed to stay. ‘What for?’ I remember thinking. It felt like the world was under attack and we were all going to die that day.”
Waterbury said that she remembers going into the newsroom and seeing usually unflappable reporters unable to do anything but stare at images plastered on every network. “Me? I just wanted to go home,” she said.
Roland Parent and his wife, Barbara, of Standish Road, were aboard a cruise ship in the middle of the Atlantic en route to Scotland when tragedy struck – they departed from New York City just five days prior, passing the World Trade Center for the last time.
“When we arrived in Scotland four days later, we were greeted with great affection, sympathy and generosity by the Scots.”
Both of Parent’s sons worked in midtown Manhattan at the time, and they weren’t able to reach them for five hours following the attacks. “You can imagine our euphoria.” They fi- nally connected with their sons via satellite phone.
Cynthia Lepre of Garboard Street was in her office in Hingham, Mass., when the attacks happened. After the first plane, she said people started to speculate: maybe there was a “mechanical malfunction or the pilot had a massive heart attack. Then the second plane hit the other tower and we all immediately knew – a terrorist attack.”
Lepre’s office then became obscured in a deep silence.
“When the impact took hold of us, we started calling relatives and friends in harm’s way,” she said. “The pattern was figured out that whoever it was, they were attacking highly visible financial and political places in our country.
“My mind immediately went to my daughter who worked on the 29th floor of a building in Boston’s financial district. After leaving messages with all of her three phones, I could only sit and wait until she returned one of my messages. As it turned out, Boston had been evacuated and she didn’t reach her home until after 3:30 p.m.
“I only had about six and half hours of anxiety and ceaseless prayers. I cannot even attempt to put myself in the shoes of the families who never heard from their loved ones again that day.”