Five years later

Published 12:00 am Monday, September 11, 2006

What I remember about 9/11. I still lived at 802 Front Street &8212; next to the Tribune &8212; when the phone rang with calls of &8220;turn on your TV.&8221;

It was a day of sorrow at the scenes we saw, just like the storms in the south.

This was real, not just a movie. It gave one a helpless feeling.

Ellen Adams, Albert Lea

I was sleeping on the sofa in the living room. I didn&8217;t sleep well the night before. I had &8220;Good Morning America&8221; on the TV. I woke up and saw images of buildings being hit by planes. I thought at first it was a preview of the latest disaster movie.

I soon realized it was the real thing. I felt horrified and numb at the same time. I watched TV news most of the day.

After five years and on repeat of such a catastrophe, I feel it may not happen again. I do realize there are terrorists all over the world planning and plotting all kinds of attacks.

Ceil Schnebly, Ellendale

On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, I was at my place of employment. I remember I was listening to the radio when they reported that a small plane hit one of the World Trade Center towers and thinking it to be just a real bizarre accident. My wife called me a while later, and as we were talking on the phone she was watching CNN and saw the second plane hit in real time. At that moment, everyone knew this was no accident. Our nation was under attack.

At break time, I ran across the street to a small convenience store and watched live coverage of the first tower collapsing. I remember being very devastated at that moment because it was actually happening before my eyes, unprecedented death and destruction. I was also very angry because the cowards that committed this act were not fighting armies, they were killing innocent

men, women and children.

Five years later, I now see us engaged in a war against Islamic fascism bent on destroying Israel

and the West and imposing their ideological beliefs on the rest of the world. I pray that our nation will never forget the lesson of Sept. 11, 2001. My fear is that many already have.

Scott Bute, Alden

When I heard about the Twin Towers, I was at the Laundromat. The television was on, and I asked the ladies if this was the previews to a new movie. They said that there was probably a terrorist.

Shortly after that I saw the second plane hit the other tower and I was shocked and horrified.

Then I was folding my laundry and the third plane hit the Pentagon. I was very emotional and sick to my stomach. My son was at work at the Pentagon that day because he was not out of the country. I tried his cell phone, but he wouldn&8217;t answer. He and the men he works with were pulling out people and helping administer first aid to people with minor injuries.

Three days later I heard that my son was fine and his set of offices was on the opposite side of the crash site.

I was so upset and felt helpless, and I was always thinking about the survivors and the families of the deceased.

After five years, I am not quite so emotional about it. I do meditation daily, so I always do a visualization meditation to help heal the hearts and hurts of the people of this earth and send them all love and light healing energy. This also helps me deal with some of the fear that tried to creep in on that day, because later that day I wondered if we would ever be safe again. This was the first night of the loving\healing meditation.

Patti Morrison, Albert Lea

As I recollect Sept. 11, 2001, it was like a bombshell! I worked in Lower Manhattan a block away from the World Trade Center Twin Towers, in the Mercantile Exchange Building on the Marina, which had become one of my favorite areas in New York City.

It took me some time to grasp what happened as I looked up at the Twin Towers for the last time. I sensed that they had been compromised, and I was struck by the feeling that the whole world is now going to change.

I think fighting against terrorists threatens our world more at the end of the day.

It brings us all down to their level, where they can continue to bargain for our long cherished freedom.

Pamela Slette, Albert Lea

When I got the news firsthand that terrorists were attacking on Sept. 11, 2001, I happened to have &8220;Good Morning, America&8221; on television in my living room while I worked on homework assignments in the background, as I was an online college student at that time. I remember hearing the ABC news anchors break into the program, which caught my attention, as that never happens unless there is a crisis.

Since I had just minutes earlier sent my son and daughter off on the school bus, my first thoughts were of them. I knew they would inevitably hear the news, either on the bus radio, or at school. I worried that they would be frightened, and wondered if I should go get them. I decided they would be more upset if I did something so out of character.

I remember feeling such sadness, knowing countless innocent people were dying in the fires, and feeling sick to my stomach watching people being videotaped live, jumping to their deaths.

My husband was home with a sinus infection that day. I remember him walking into the living room asking what was going on. I remember telling him what I knew, as tears ran down my face, never taking my eyes off the screen. Right then, the second tower was hit.

Later, we asked our neighbor across the road to have lunch with us, as he was home alone doing harvest work. We three sat in front of the television, not saying much.

When my kids ran in from the school bus later, I was relieved to see that they were full of youthful resiliency. My son had a typical 10-year-old&8217;s bravado, already talking about war with the terrorists. As a 7-year-old, my daughter&8217;s reaction was much more difficult to hear. She looked at me with real fear in her big blue eyes asked if &8220;those bad guys were going to come to our house and shoot us?&8221; I remember at the time I didn&8217;t feel 100 percent accurate in telling her we were safe in the Midwestern North Iowa town we lived in.

Five years later, I still don&8217;t feel totally safe. I wonder if this war will ever end. I have friends and family who have been to Iraq and back, and I have seen the impact it has had on them. I worry a lot about the future. My son is growing up fast, and he has an interest in law enforcement, and I worry that this may take him into the war unless it ends soon. We are having a new baby soon, and part of me feels sad that he or she won&8217;t know what our world was like before Sept. 11.

I feel proud of the way our military has bravely and willingly defended us. Our country has worked to help those hurt by 9/11,and these acts of patriotism are what make us glad to be where we are. May we always feel this way.

Tracee Sprau, Albert Lea

I was in Topeka, Kan., visiting our daughter in September 2001.

The day the planes hit the Twin Towers I had a little time before an appointment, so with a cup of coffee when I turned on the TV; the second plane had just hit one of the Twin Towers. I couldn&8217;t believe my eyes.

As the day wore on, I was glued to the television. How did I feel?

I felt like I was watching a movie with one disastrous scene after another. It was heartbreaking to see all the devastation and the anxiety on people&8217;s faces &8212; absolute disbelief.

My daughter said, &8220;Mom, this is a holy war,&8221; and I believe that.

How do I feel after five years?

I feel these acts will continue because of the culture of these other countries. They will never change.

An interesting quote I heard years ago, &8220;Never fear to negotiate, but never negotiate out of fear.&8221;

Sandra Pieper, Albert Lea

We flew from Amsterdam to Copenhagen, Denmark, on Sept. 11, 2001.

As we were going to our gate in Amsterdam, we saw many people standing in front of a TV, and as we walked by we saw smoke coming out of the building that we wondered whether it was the World Trade Center. Because we had a long way to walk and not much time, we could not stop to find out what was happening. As we boarded a bus to take us from the international airport in Copenhagen to the domestic airport, the bus driver asked us if we were Americans. He asked us if we had heard the news and we said we knew something had happened but did not know what.

He told us about the three planes. By the time he was done telling us he was in tears and kept saying, &8220;I am so sorry &8212; so sorry for your country.&8221; Wherever we went in the next days, we received condolences because of the tragedy. One day while there, the whole of Denmark had a three-minute observance to the memory of those killed in the World Trade Center. Everything stopped &8212; trains, buses, traffic, factory workers, shops TV and radio. It was very humbling to be on the receiving end of so much love shown to our country.

We felt fearful not knowing how soon planes would be flying over the Atlantic again.

We are still saddened by the great loss and fearful of what terrorist may try to do again.

Bob and Erna Berthelsen, Albert Lea

I was at 1702 Frank Hall Drive and was making morning coffee as my boyfriend was stopping by, so I turned on the small TV I have in my kitchen. I didn&8217;t get it at first, I thought it was some movie of a sort. Then Warren came: &8220;That&8217;s the New York Twin Towers.&8221;

I was floored &8212; I could not believe it a few seconds. How did I feel? I felt sick. The more we watched it and later trying to understand this disaster I still cannot believe this could happen to have two jets in only moments apart hit those towers, and another plane trying to get the Pentagon at the same time. It&8217;s unreal. I still don&8217;t get it; then I have the same feeling of Dec. 7, 1941, when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. These two attacks (disastrous) attacks, I still cannot get myself to trust the Japanese. These two attacks just don&8217;t happen overnight.

That&8217;s my feeling!

Vivian Brua, Albert Lea

I was seated at a casual staff meeting, held at Cedar House Inc., where I worked at the time. In this meeting were approximately six staff members. During the meeting Charles&8217; cell phone rang (unusual during this time). His wife, Shirley stated, &8220;A plane has hit the twin towers &8212; you all may want to start watching a television.&8221; Our boss sprang into action and drove out to Wal-Mart for an antenna, for our large set. The adults we served (mentally ill and developmentally disabled clients) would be arriving soon. Our television was used for entertainment, through videos and also training purposes. We installed the antenna and quickly found a local station. Staff and clients gathered around the screen. No matter how many times they showed the tape, one couldn&8217;t believe the sight. There was a sense of unity and comfort, as we all watched the tragedy unfold. I drove a van and cooked for the program at day treatment. I had the opportunity to be alone with my spinning thoughts, while I was cooking. I had a chance to visit with the clients during the van trips also during recreation therapy groups. They were feeling sad, too. It was a great place to be when you felt so scared and disbelieving. At Cedar House it was like a &8220;family&8221; any way, and this brought the whole program closer. We all (of course) had to take turns using the phone to be assured our own loved ones were safe.

I felt lost. My heart went out to all the people in New York and the vast numbers of struggling people involved with the devastating event. It&8217;s like your mind went on automatic pilot, and you just couldn&8217;t pull yourself away from the news just waiting and waiting for it all to have been just a &8220;bad dream.&8221;

Here we are five years later. My feelings are still unsettled, so many unanswered questions and the heartbreaking war rages on. How safe are we, just knowing at the drop of a tear, our lives could change forever?

Denise S. Jacobson, Albert Lea

On Sept. 11, 2001, I was in the seventh week of my 16-week sabbatical and living in Bethlehem in the West Bank. It was a lovely Tuesday afternoon, and I was hanging my laundry to dry when the wife of my landlord called to me in her broken English that there had been an &8220;accident&8221; involving the World Trade Center and that it was on the television. I raced inside to an image on the television screen of the smoke and fire of the first tower and the chaos on the streets. Juliana had to translate for me as the news report was in Arabic. It was a surreal moment, and I remember catching my breath as I was totally stunned and in disbelief that what I was seeing was actually happening. Immediately, I thought of the first attack on the World Trade Center in the early 1990s and wondered if this was another or some bizarre accident. It was then that the second plane hit the other tower and erased all doubt that what was happening was an accident.

As speculation swirled in the news reports as to what was happening and why, I felt a storm of emotions &8212; confusion, disorientation, fear, sadness and anger. At the same time I knew that it would take some time to accurately sort out who was behind this and why. I stayed close to the television and the Internet. In fairly short order, speculation focused on Osama bin Laden and his terror organization al-Qaida. But what fascinated me was the reaction and comments of the people of the community in which I was staying. The Palestinian family with whom I was staying and those with whom I spent most of my time were Christians. While they share a common interest in the welfare of the Palestinian people as an emerging nation, the Christian community within Palestine does not endorse the violent tactics of the Muslim extremists. Yet, interestingly, in the days following 9/11, I was the recipient of expressions of compassion and sympathy from both Christian and Muslim Palestinians; though the Muslims were highly critical of the speculation and suspicions regarding bin Laden&8217;s involvement and dismissed the early reports of international terrorist involvement. Several cited the fiasco of the 1996 Atlanta Olympics bombing incident and the rush to judgment regarding Richard Jewel. I didn&8217;t argue.

By far, however, I was most deeply moved by the outpouring of sympathy. Such expression of compassion was quite unexpected. By now, I was known by most people as &8220;the American studying at ICB (International Center of Bethlehem)&8221; and every conversation with everyone I met soon turned to 9/11. I felt as though their sympathy and compassion was being conveyed to the whole of the United States through me.

One example. The Saturday after 9/11 I was in a group that went to a small restaurant. We were guys from several European countries as well as locals. I was the only American. We spent the evening eating, drinking and sharing a Turkish water pipe. At the end of the evening we went up to pay our individual tabs. As I stepped up, the proprietor of the business announced, &8220;No. Tonight the American does not pay.&8221; And then he also offered to personally drive us back to our apartments (we had walked several kilometers to his restaurant).

My sabbatical was cut short, and I returned to the United States the next week. All in all, it was an interesting and enlightening experience that has given me an eye-opening and insightful perspective on the people &8212; Christians and Muslims &8212; of Palestine, and their views of the United States in international affairs.

Rev. Curtis L. Zieske, Trinity Lutheran Church, ELCA, Albert Lea

I remember well when the Twin Towers fell. I was working in the office of the Crime Victims Crisis Center when one of the social workers came back from the courthouse and said he heard that the Pentagon had been hit. We immediately tuned in the little TV in our conference room (that is usually just used to view videotapes that we use). The first tower was smoking and then we saw the airplane hit the second tower and we all gasped. By this time workers from other departments were wandering in to watch the trauma on the TV.

One worker stood in the doorway and said, &8220;I was supposed to fly to Turkey today for a wedding.&8221; To him I said, &8220;Aren&8217;t you glad you are here instead of there?&8221;

We were all so awestruck there was little conversation. But I observed, &8220;I&8217;ve had family fight in nearly every war this country was in, and I hoped my grandchildren would not have to fight another war.&8221; (Ultimately, two of my grandchildren did spend a year in Iraq. Both are home safe now, thank God.)

After five years I feel frustrated that so little has been accomplished. I feel we are embroiled in a war that has little to do with the attacks of 9/11. I think most people feel thankful that no further attacks on this country have been successful. But we have to wonder: How long can this go on? And how can the terror be diminished?

Thank you for asking and I look forward to seeing &8220;Remember 9/11.&8221; By the way, I am old enough to remember when I heard about Pearl Harbor and when JFK was shot.

Joyce P. Rhody, Albert Lea

On Sept. 11, 2001, I was preparing for the Tuesday morning Bible study. I happened to turn on a radio, and I was then focused on the unfolding news story until time for the meeting.

In the five years since the terrorist attack I have taken some classes that reflect philosophically on our culture. My reflection right now is that the event known as 9/11 has not taken on a symbolic identity. I hear on the news today there is some attempt to make it symbolic of patriotism, but that symbolism in our remembrance of 9/11 is not as strong as it is in the old &8220;Remember the Alamo.&8221; My older son suggested that 9/11 may come to symbolize the erosion of individual rights beginning with searches at the airport and telephone surveillance without the need for warrants. Time will only tell if that reflection is warranted.

My reflection five years after the event is that 9/11 has not taken on an important symbolic image. I remember going to Camp Moraine on Albert Lea Lake. It was about 1962. I remember learning a song about the sinking of the Titanic. I thought the ship had maybe sunk that summer, or the year before. We were singing about that catastrophic event 50 years after it had happened. With a little quick research I learned this week that the song about the sinking of the titanic has been traced back to 1915, three years after the sinking, and it may be older. Why did that event have symbolic power through these 94 years and two world wars? My reflection is that it was a symbol that modern science is fallible. It was billed as the ship that could not be sunk. The philosophy of modern man was &8220;every day in every way we are getting better and better.&8221; Then there was the terrible world war. The Titanic was a reminder that modern science is as fallible as any other human endeavor. The Titanic sinking was a powerful symbol.

I am not aware of any song about 9/11, in particular not a song that will still be sung in 45 years. I dare suggest that if the United States had taken a different direction 9/11 could have become the symbol of a world against terrorism. But our choice was to go alone with our own brand of violent behavior. My reflection this week is that the memory is fading and any symbolic power the event might have had in our culture is fading with our memory.

However, if I had the magic wand, the symbolism of 9/11 would not be of patriotism but of civic service and pride. There would be a song with a verse about the firemen climbing the tower.

Albert Lea firemen would be proud when they heard youngsters at camp singing that verse. There would be a song about the 9/11 civic heroes on Flight 93. That verse would be heard at airports and would be air terrorists would think twice. There would be a verse that expressed this was not about religion and Islam. Even at our Lutheran Bible camp that verse would be sung. There would be a verse about volunteers who worked for weeks and months to sift through debris. That verse would be sung spontaneously at civic relief efforts after tornadoes and fires and hurricanes. It could be a powerful symbol and a meaningful song.

Joel Xavier, Geneva

I was eating breakfast when the news of the World Trade Center tower being hit was announced.

I was curious, to say the least.

Now, after five years and hundreds of hours of investigation, I know most of the sordid details of that fateful day. When you know the incriminating details of that day, the only conclusion you can arrive at is the events of 9/11 were orchestrated by criminal elements within our own government in a &8220;false flag&8221; operation to further their twisted agenda of initiating a worldwide &8220;War on Terrorism.&8221; Anyone who doubts this statement needs to do his own research.

Yes, 9/11 was an &8220;inside job&8221; to further several New World Order agendas. Recent programs of C-Span and the Discovery Channel have exposed some of the lies of the government&8217;s &8220;conspiracy theory.&8221;

In my estimation, the greatest &8220;conspiracy theory&8221; is the government&8217;s story that 19 Arab hijackers commandeered four planes and carried out the events of 9/11. When you know the real facts, this anointed and official explanation of 9/11 is laughable.

Lloyd Palmer, Albert Lea

I was in Charleston, S.C., working at Mr. Leon Department Store, on King Street, which is right in downtown Charleston.

Everyone came in to tell us at the store. We didn&8217;t have a TV so we didn&8217;t know what was going on. I couldn&8217;t believe it was happening in the United States. That night I watched TV. I couldn&8217;t believe it. All those poor people&8217;s lives lost.

Now that it is five years later, the government gave $50 million to the people who turn in paperwork. It seems like nothing has been done to get the man responsible for 9/11. What is going on? All this money for a war, and nothing to get the man who killed all those people.

I have not gone to the movie &8220;The World Trade Center.&8221; I want to go to the movie.

Janet White, Albert Lea

Sept. 11, 2001 began as any other day does for all of us. I, myself, was in the third week of my maternity leave with my son David. I remember holding my son and rocking with him when the bulletin broke into the show I was watching, I think it was a rerun of &8220;Beverly Hills 90210&8221; or something silly like that.

The first thing I did was take a long, hard look at my newborn son and think to myself, &8220;What have I brought you into, sweet boy? What kind of world can you look forward to?&8221;

The next thought through my head was of my brother, Greg. Greg is career military, a member of the Army Reserves, who served a tour of duty in Korea during the &8217;80s and also in Operation Desert Shield/Storm. I couldn&8217;t help but wonder how long it would be before he would be called into action, before he would have to once again face down evil so I could sleep soundly at night, like so many others have before him. I thought of his wife and children, of how his daughter Kacey was just a baby when he was gone the first time, she&8217;s never been without him, and how scared she would be for him now.

The next thought that went through my head was for my late father, also career military, and wondered what his thoughts and reactions would be. I always put a lot of stock in my parents&8217; opinions, and I really would have like to have known what he thought of the whole mess. I have been around the Army my whole life; a friend of mine told me once after this all happened that I was a patriot before being a patriot was cool. Interesting, since I had just been commenting to my mother a few days before that I was a little bewildered at all the people who were suddenly jumping on the America bandwagon. Funny, they were the same people who were just badmouthing us not too long ago. It&8217;s good that this tragedy brought us together as a country, but it&8217;s sad that it took such a tragedy for it to happen.

Being from a military family, the first victims I grieved for were the people in the Pentagon. I know that there were 3,000-plus people that died in the towers, but I was disappointed at the lack of coverage about the Pentagon and the people in United Flight 93. There was much more news about the towers, and granted, there were many more people in the towers, but the people in the Pentagon and in that Pennsylvania field have families too. They are innocent victims too, and I thought they deserved equal &8220;mourning&8221; coverage as the victims in New York. Regardless, it was a tragedy all around and lives were lost senselessly, and I cry when I think about it. I think of how it would affect me if one of my family members were killed because a bunch of terrorists were mad at my government. Unfortunately, that seems to be the general theme of war. Innocent people die.

Over the next several weeks I was glued to CNN and &8220;Headline News.&8221; I am such a news junkie; I can&8217;t tear myself away from the TV when there are major events taking place. It actually made for some really great bonding time with my son, as he was in my arms most of that time. I never once complained about having to get up in the middle of the night to feed him. In fact I welcomed it, since it just meant more CNN. It was mostly a lot of the same that I had already heard, but I kept watching, never wanting to miss a single opinion or shred of new information. Part of it also stemmed from the fact that I knew I was now responsible for this brand new life, and I had to do everything I could to keep him safe. My maternal instincts went into overdrive.

Now, five years later, 9/11 seems like an eternity ago, my brother&8217;s second tour in Iraq came and went, and I have mixed emotions about where we&8217;re heading as a society. There are many things that disgust me about us as a civilization, and there are many things that I am very proud of. One thing I do know is we have a long way to go, and I sure hope we are headed in the right direction, with the right priorities, because I&8217;m not so sure we are. All I can do is teach my son to be the best human being he can possibly be, and try to do the same myself. I guess, in the end, that&8217;s all any of us can really do.

Stacey Bahr, Albert Lea

For me, it wasn&8217;t just Sept.11, 2001, that truly changed me; it was the days following the tragedy. I was getting ready for work when the first plane went into the World Trade Center, and I stood mesmerized by the television trying to figure out what had just happened and then the next plane hit. I knew I needed to get to work, so I hopped in my car and raced to work only to get two exits up when cars were stopping in front of me. I looked up and saw a massive cloud of pitch-black smoke rise in front of me. I was on Interstate 395, three exits away from the Pentagon. American Airlines Flight 77 had just crashed into the building. With the evacuation of Washington, D.C., I was doubtful I would get to my job at the American Red Cross.

It was Sept. 12 that made me take stock of what had happened the day before. Driving past the still burning Pentagon on my way into the city, I could see the snipers on the buildings and could hear the fighter jets in the air.

My boss was the senior vice president at the Red Cross, and he sent me up to the president&8217;s office to help. The 120-year-old institution had never experienced a disaster of this magnitude before. I began working with the head of our human resources department, and he said to me, &8220;We are trying desperately to get a hold of the head of their Chicago office, keep trying this number and ask for this person; we need to confirm names.&8221; I admit at first I was dumbfounded, I did not realize whom I was calling, just that I needed this person to call back immediately. After leaving message after message, I still was not getting anybody to call me back. In the interim, I went to help design a grid, which would end up being the first rendition at how the American Red Cross would attempt to help any and all victims of this tragedy. After meeting with the president and her chief of staff, I now understood the urgency of why and who I was trying to contact. I was calling the Chicago offices of Cantor Fitzgerald.

New York investment bank Cantor Fitzgerald was one of the largest in the world, with its headquarters on the 101st to the 105th floors of the North Tower. When the first plane struck just as the working day started, 658 employees were killed, more than in any other organization, including the Fire Department of the City of New York.

In the days and weeks following 9/11, I was privy to witness the biggest outpouring of support that our nation had ever seen. I would see children each day stopping by the front door of the Red Cross dropping off their canister of coins collected from their neighborhood drives. I would be sitting at my bosses&8217; side and see check after check each written for a million dollars or more by some of the finest companies in America. I called my sister immediately when I heard of a $30 million pledge by her company, Eli Lilly, which would be split evenly among three disaster relief organizations. I also received a call from Bill Hay, a local businessman in Albert Lea, who tracked me down in Washington, D.C., to offer his services and his plane to help the American Red Cross.

Then finally going to New York and seeing where the towers stood and looking at all the posters of missing people are memories that will never fade. Most importantly, I will treasure the hugs that I was able to give some of the police officers, firefighters and FEMA workers. However, my heart will always go out to the people at the Pentagon who help keep our country safe. In the following months, it was awe-inspiring to see the speed of rebuilding that building.

I am forever grateful that in some small way, I helped the 9/11 relief efforts. To this day, some

of the hardest working and finest people I have ever known worked at the Red Cross during 9/11. I was just a minor player at the Red Cross that day, but no matter what the critics say, we helped America. We were there holding people&8217;s hands, giving the first responders food and water, and trying to support the families who lost loved ones. We tried our best.

Martha Jones Sichko, Woodbury