9-11

On September 11th, I wrote about the significance if the September 11th date and the terrorist attacks on New York City and the Pentagon, but there was another target that day. The attack on Washington DC was at first thought to be planned for the White House, but it was later determined that the attack was planned for the nation’s capitol building. I have wondered if that September 11th date could have a significance for the capitol too, so I did some research. Unfortunately, I have not been able to find a specific day that the groundbreaking at the capital took place.

I did find out that on September 18, 1793, George Washington laid the cornerstone to the United States Capitol building. Now, I’m not a contractor, but it makes sense to me that from groundbreaking to cornerstone, could logically take a week…putting the possible groundbreaking on…you guessed it, September 11, 1793. The building itself would take nearly a century to complete, as architects came and went, the British set fire to it, and it was called into use during the Civil War. Nevertheless, the original groundbreaking took place before September 18, 1793. Today, the Capitol building, with its famous cast-iron dome and important collection of American art, is part of the Capitol Complex, which includes six Congressional office buildings and three Library of Congress buildings, all developed in the 19th and 20th centuries.

As we all know, the brave heroes of Flight 93 foiled that attack on September 11, 2001, which is why the US Capitol building was not destroyed or damaged. Those people saved the capitol building and somehow managed t crash their plane into a field…hitting no one on the ground. They knew that the other planes that had been hijacked, were not landing to have their demands met…they were being flown into buildings, and that meant that they were likely headed for the same fate. They knew that all they could do was to sacrifice their own lives to make sure that this attack did not succeed, and that is what they did, crashing it into a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. With a quick, “Let’s roll!!” they ran forward and fought with the terrorists, and while they weren’t able to get complete control of the plane, they made sure it didn’t reach it’s intended destination, and they saved the capital.

I can’t say, for sure, that September 11th was the date that they broke ground on the capital building, but in my mind, it makes sense that it was. And that makes it shocking to me. There were some days in Islamic history about September 11, but they were simply battles and such that took place, not the day that a city or place that was being attacked…also being the day that it was founded or had it’s groundbreaking. That makes it monumental, but in the third attack, they weren’t successful, and the plane crashed in a field. Maybe that was monumental too.

Following the horrific attacks on our country on September 11, 2001, all planes were told to land at the nearest possible airport immediately. Before long, there were no planes in United States airspace, other than military planes. The feeling was an eerie one. Maybe other people considered the international flights, but for some odd reason, I did not until I read a book called, “When The World Came To Town.” When the United States closed its airspace that day, it left literally thousands of people out over the oceans with nowhere to go…almost. Those that had not passed the point of no return, most likely turned around, but there were many planes that had to go on. Nevertheless, they could not land in the United States, so our neighbors in Canada came to the rescue.

There were only a couple of places that planes en route to the east coast of the United States could land. One of them was Gander, Newfoundland…a small town of 9,561 people in 2001…and nearby communities like Gambo, Lewisporte, Appleton and Norris Arm. When the US airports shut down, it left 38 planes and 6,500 people who were heading west over the Atlantic, with very few options. Enter Gander, Newfoundland. Gander airport received those 38 planes, and opened everything in their town to those 6,500 people and a couple of dogs. The passengers were mostly in shock…both because of what had just happened, and because all the people of Gander simply dropped everything to personally take care of the stunned passengers.

At the time, the school bus drivers were on strike. As if they were one person, they all laid down their picket signs and went to drive their unexpected guests around…not just from the airport, but anywhere they needed or wanted to go. Pharmacists filled prescriptions for free. Shop owners declined payment for goods sold to the passengers. The arena at the Gander Community Centre became a giant walk-in fridge for food donations. The people brought their best dishes…comfort food for the passengers, all of whom were feeling, like every United States citizen was feeling…nauseous, anxious, and scared. If people began to cry, someone was there to comfort them and allow them to talk it out. People opened their homes, allowing people to stay with them, and others to shower in their homes. Homes were not locked. They were opened to the people from the planes…at all hours. If people just needed to get out of the community center, someone took them wherever they wanted to go…even just for a drive.

The tarmac at Gander International Airport quickly became a parking lot. There were planes everywhere. I don’t think a plane could take off, if they wanted to, but then, nobody was really going anywhere. The United States was in a “holding pattern,” and for Gander, the same applied, to a degree. They were busy helping their unexpected guests to feel more comfortable, and less anxious, if that was possible. Nevertheless, the passengers were not bored. The townspeople entertained them with music, tours, a church service, and even a birthday party for a passenger with a birthday. The townspeople took the passengers to Walmart to get them the clothing and other necessities they had to leave in the cargo hold of the plane. Whatever they wanted or needed, they were supplied with. The people of Gander did it all, and asked for nothing in return. All that is great, but the truly wonderful thing that the people of Gander, Gambo, Lewisporte, Appleton and Norris Arm did for the stranded passengers, was to offer friendship…a friendship that has endured through the 19 years since that fateful day.

It hardly seems possible that 18 years have passed since our nation was brutally attacked on our own soil by Al-Qaeda terrorists, and yet sometimes it seems like so many people who are adults now, don’t really remember 9-11, so they don’t understand the importance. It’s not an unusual thing, I guess, because they were only told about what happened. It might seem like a movie, more than a reality. Nevertheless, it did happen. On that dreadful day, a series of four coordinated terrorist attacks by the Islamic group, Al-Qaeda were carried out against the United States on the morning of Tuesday, September 11, 2001. The attacks killed 2,996 people, injured over 6,000 others, and caused at least $10 billion in infrastructure and property damage. Additional people died of 9/11-related cancer and respiratory diseases in the months and years following the attacks. We, the people of the United States, sat stunned in front of our television sets, trying to grasp what had happened. We were shocked, angry, and terribly grieved. We vowed never to forget. And most of us have not forgotten.

Still, with time comes acceptance. Not that I think that is a good thing, because with acceptance comes complacency. We feel like we can’t change anything, so the best solution is to simply get along. Don’t rock the boat. Try to live together in peace. It all sounds so loving, so…Christian. Unfortunately, the only ones that are trying to “get along and live together in peace,” are the Christians, and maybe the Jews, who have been through such things before, and are getting tired of being the target of slaughter. But, should we be trying to get along with the devil? We have seen the evil that comes with these hateful people who target innocent people who are just trying to live their lives. The don’t care about living in peace with us!! The only want us to comply with their demands.

I have seen so many people saying that they miss 9/12, and I think I agree with them. Yes that horrific day had happened…the unthinkable was in our midst. We were scratching through the rubble, trying to find yet one more alive, though not many would come out of the rubble. The survivors were, for the most part, those who managed to escape before the towers came down. Still, on 9/12, there was something else…there was determination, anger, and love for our fellow man. We were determined to rise out of the ashes, and take back our Pre-9/11 lives, to catch those who did this, and make them pay for what they had done. And we did!!

But then, as the years went by, we tried to get along, hoping that this would never happen again…an impossible feat. Our “get along” spirit did not stop other attacks. We began to hear of places like Benghazi, and even the attack on the US Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan this morning. The “get along” spirit wasn’t…isn’t working. They hate us simply because we are Christians and Jews, Americans…free people, who don’t believe as they do. September 11, 2001 was a horrible day, very likely the worst in the history of the United States, but I agree with so many others who say they miss 9/12, because on that day, we were no longer the “sleeping giant.” We woke up and realized that we can’t be complacent, because they will kill those who sit idly by and do nothing. We must either continue to fight for our freedom…or we will lose our freedom. We must begin again to recognize our enemy…foreign or domestic. The war hasn’t ended. It continues. We must fight for our freedoms.

Sixteen years…that is the amount of time that has passed since the horrific 9-11 attacks on America. It’s hard to believe that so much time has passed. When I think about the victims of those attacks, I am saddened to think that the beautiful potential their lives had was stripped away from them in an instant. I think about the families they left behind to mourn their loss. And I think about the babies that arrived after the attacks, who would never know their dads. This year marks another milestone those babies will have without their dads…getting their driver’s license….as well as possibly dating. Their dads have missed so many milestones already, and it was just so unfair. Those men went to work that day, fully expecting to come home, but evil doesn’t care.

I think about the children who were lost in the attacks. Their lives were cut short before they even had a chance to grow up, and fulfill their life’s full potential. Some of them hadn’t even started school yet. They didn’t get the chance to graduate from high school, which many of them would now have done by now. Their potential to be a productive member of society was squashed in a matter of a few hours on that September day, sixteen years ago, because evil doesn’t care.

I am sad for the men and women, who worked in the offices of the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, who simply went about their day, doing the things they had planned, only to have everything ripped out from under them in a moment. Their futures were so bright. They were going places. They had studied and learned their trade, and now they were the people who were ready to go out and change the world. Their dreams were so quickly over. They would do no more. Their chance was gone. And the people on the planes, innocently traveling to their destination…forced to become a bomb in the plot to kill so many. Life for all of them ended that awful day, because evil doesn’t care.

I think of the emergency workers who ran into the buildings…the same way they always do in an emergency, fully expecting to bring the people out and save their lives. They ran in, but most of those who went in, did not come back out that day. So many of the higher ranked firefighters had to be quickly replaced with firefighters who were less experienced in leadership, because the leaders were gone. So many people in so many areas of the United States and the world had to try to go on with the emptiness that was left by the loss of so many, in all walks of life. The nation had to rebuild…move forward…and deal with the feelings of grief, anger, and loss that the attacks left behind…that hate left behind, because evil doesn’t care about the life it destroyed. Evil just doesn’t care.

World Trade CenterFifteen years ago today, Americans were greeted with horror, as terrorism split the atmosphere of safety we had long enjoyed around our nation. I think most Americans had become comfortable, and even complacent about national security. Life was going along at almost a lazy Sunday afternoon pace. We were like small town kids, who thought that nothing ever happens in our town. How very wrong we were. Our world was about to be turned upside down.

When the first plane hit the World Trade Center, I think most people thought it was a tragic accident. We simply couldn’t fathom the idea that a terrorist would be so horribly cruel as to hijack a plane full of innocent people and fly it straight into a building full of more innocent people. And yet, to our horror, that is exactly what these terrorists did. They operated the planes with no mercy and no feelings. They did not care about the lives they were taking or even about their own lives…in fact, they thought they were heroes for their actions, and that there would be great rewards in Heaven for them. Their complete shock as they entered Hell, must have been devastating.

World Trade Center Two CollapsesTheir actions left our nation is shock and disbelief. We watch as the devastation unfolded before us, growing worse by the moment, our hearts and minds were assaulted, yet we could not look away. We watched, hoping that the people on the top floors could be saved…even after they began to fall or jump from the building, because the heat was more than they could take. We felt sick with each and every thud. We prayed over the rescuers, that they would be successful in getting people out, and that they would come out too. We watched in stunned disbelief as the towers fell, praying that after the first tower fell, that somehow, the second would remain standing…until it also fell. We became angry at the people who had done this, without provocation. Pure hate, of our beliefs, our prosperity, and our liberties, and that drove them to attack us.

As the day went on, we watched in horror as more information came out. We knew that there were going to be World Trade Center One Collapsesmany people died, but still we watched as they dug through the rubble. We thought there would suddenly be people found alive in that rubble. As time went on, we knew that there wouldn’t be huge numbers of survivors. In the end, only twelve people were found alive after the towers fell. After a couple of days, we knew there would be no more, still we could not look away. We had to watch…had to know. As each lost one was found…we cried right along with their families. Then came the worst horror of all…finding out that some people would never be found. The fires had been so hot that their bodies were cremated. That added more horror to our thoughts. It was something we just couldn’t fathom, just like we could not fathom that 15 years later, that day would still be as vivid in our memories as it was on the day we were attacked.

Refeuling 4Refeuling 3The terrorist attacks that took place at the World Trade Center in New York, the Pentagon in Washington DC, and just outside Shanksville, Pennsylvania on September 11, 2001 brought about changes in our country that we never thought we would see. For the first time in modern aviation history, all air traffic, except for military security planes were grounded. The skies were eerily void of contrails from planes, and the air lacked the sounds from them that we had become so used to that we almost didn’t notice the sounds anymore…unless, like me, you just like planes, and like to watch them.

Of course, eventually we would begin to see planes again, because we are a nation on the move and planes are essential. The planes began flying again, but with them came a lot more military planes. In most ways that was good, but with that came something else that I never expected to see…mid-air refueling. I have only seen this in action one time. I was on my way into my sister’s house and I looked up because I heard a plane. It was actually two planes…very close together. With 9-11 so fresh in my mind, my first thought was that I might be witnessing an attack above my head. I stood there and watched closely. The planes weren’t so high that you couldn’t see the refueling line as it connected one plane to the other. I was fascinated…and relieved…to witness that. I don’t know how many people have seen it, but my guess is that it isn’t many…at least outside of the aviation industry or the military. Of course, the planes were moving and I didn’t see the line being retracted, but I still felt rather privileged to see that technology in action.

Mid-air refueling is not something that is so new, in fact the first time a plane was refueled in mid-air was on this day, August 23,1923. The Airco DH.4 was a British two-seat biplane day bomber of World War I. It was designed by Geoffrey de Havilland for Airco, and was the first British two-seat light day-bomber to have an effective defensive armament. It first flew in August 1916 and entered service with the Royal Flying Corps in March 1917. The majority of DH.4s were actually built as general purpose two-seaters in the United States, for service with the American forces in France. The plane could do just about anything needed…except fly for an extended time period. Hence the name day-bomber. Then, all that changed when Captain Lowell Smith and Lieutenant John Richter received the first mid-air refueling on June 27, 1923, from a plane flown by 1st Lieutenant Virgil Hine and 1st Lieutenant Frank Seifert.

When we think of mid-air refueling, we picture something high tech, like what I saw, but the technology for it Refeuling 1Refeuling 2began in the 1920s. To me that seems incredible, but I guess that most inventions take time to develop. Time and hard work, but once they are developed, they can change the course of history. These days, planes are refueled like the two planes I saw and even a plane that refuels a helicopter, which I find completely amazing. The human mind has come up with so many inventions, and I think this one is among the greatest.

World Trade CenterWhen something earth shattering happens, people tend to talk about that moment a lot. They seem always to remember where they were, and what they were doing. September 11, 2001 found me at home because my girls would be bringing their children over before school. I was getting ready for work, and I would drop the kids off at school before I went to work. My daughters had to be to work an hour earlier than I did. When my daughter, Corrie Petersen came in, she was on the phone with her husband, Kevin and she said, “The World Trade Center is on fire…and so is the Pentagon!” My mind couldn’t comprehend how that could be. I said, “How can that be…they are nowhere near each other?” It was just like finding out that President Kennedy had been shot on the street outside our home, when a friend told us as we went outside to play. These kinds of events and what we were doing when…are almost seared into our brains.

That was the way it was for my great aunt, Bertha Schumacher and her sister, Elsa. Bertha writes that she and Elsa were ironing clothes when the news came over the radio that the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor. She writes that they were dumb-founded because the ambassador from Japan had just visited FDR…talking peace! It was a moment that should have taught our nation that it is unwise to trust human beings without reservation…but we are FlakDad's military daysslow to learn that, and so things have happened again and again. For people like my great aunts and me, I think it is disheartening that these things happen within our own borders. For Aunt Bertha, it became a time to be chronicled. She believed that it was important for people to be able to read “simple, unvarnished accounts” of how people felt when these earth shattering events took place.

For my dad, World War II became a life changing event. He went from being a 20 year old young man, to a Top Turret Gunner and Flight Engineer in a matter of months. He had never kept big secrets from his family, and didn’t later on either, but during the war his letters had to be guarded. He couldn’t say too much because the security of their squadron and many others depended on absolute secrecy. He also had to be guarded because he didn’t want to worry his mother. He felt such a need to protect her from worry, and she, knowing what war really was all about tried to keep him from knowing that she was indeed worrying. No matter how hard we try not to be, we were affected by the events surrounding our lives, whether they are personal or environmental.

I know that for me, that sense of security that existed pre-September 11th, is missing. I know Bertha Schumacher Hallgrenthat an attack is possible, and that there are within our borders, people who want to destroy this nation. The United States of America is too amazing to think that events like these could take it down, but if freedom and security aren’t protected, they could do just that. When I think of Aunt Bertha and Aunt Elsa hearing about the war on television on December 7, 1941, and how frightening that must have seemed…how anguished they must have felt, I find myself thinking how awful that must have been. I have lived through several wars in my lifetime, but not a world war…although I think it is coming. I wish there could be less earth shattering moments, but I don’t think we have seen the last of them.

Lady LibertyOn June 17, 1885…129 years ago today, the Statue of Liberty, in a dismantled form, arrived in New York Harbor. It was a gift from France to commemorate our friendship with them during the American Revolution. While the Statue of Liberty would not be officially assembled and dedicated until October 8th, 1886, this was it’s official arrival. The Statue of Liberty’s 300 copper pieces packed in 214 crates were transported on the French ship “Isere” to America. Although the ship nearly sank in rough seas, it arrived in New York on June 17, 1885. The Statue’s parts remained unassembled for nearly a year until the pedestal was completed in 1886. What really shocks me is that there were only 350 parts to make up the Statue of Liberty. That seems impossible. Having been to, and inside the Statue of Liberty, I know how big it is. I would have guessed more like 1000 pieces. Today Lady Liberty has become known around the world as an enduring symbol of freedom and democracy.

Having been to the Statue of Liberty, I find it very interesting to think that it arrived here 129 years ago today. I don’t know how many of you have been inside the statue, or how far up you were able to go, but I have been to the crown. I was very disappointed that we could not go to the torch, but for safety reasons, the torch has been closed to visitors since 1916, after an incident called the Black Tom explosions in which munitions-laden barges and railroad cars on the Jersey City, New Jersey, waterfront were blown up by German agents, causing damage to the nearby statue. That was something I didn’t know, and sadly there was nothing that would change it, but I was inside the Statue of Liberty, and it was so amazing…like a dream, not a reality!! I know that lots of people have been there and lots have been inside, and lots have even been to the crown, but I had not…and then I had…and, it was surreal!!

When I think about all the people who have sailed past this statue as they came to their new Caryn Spencer 15 yrs oldhome…and how many of them were my ancestors or Bob’s ancestors, it is just mind boggling. If she could talk…what stories could she tell. The Statue of Liberty has seen so much. Ships have come and gone, immigrants have arrived, the city has changed…and been attacked. What stories she could tell of happiness, sadness, floods, hurricanes, and terrorism. She has seen the transformation of her near neighbor from the location of Fort Gibson, to the current site of the Ellis Island Immigrant Station. She watched the planes fly into the World Trade Center…and their fall. When I think about all the changes that have taken place in our nation since Lady Liberty arrived, I wish she could speak, because the stories she could tell of our nation’s history would be amazing.

World Trade CenterTwelve years ago today, our world was changed forever. In my remembrance and that of all living Americans, there has never been never been such an attack…here, on American soil…until September 11, 2001. That day will live in the memories of all the American people who were old enough to remember it, and any who have been told very much about it since. I have to wonder about the people born since that time. Will they understand what that day is all about? Or will they simply see it in the way most of us see things like the Civil War or the American Revolutionary War? Both were events that took place here in America so very long ago, fought on American soil, and yet, they seem more like a storybook event than a real event that is such a big part of our history. I don’t know how that could have been September 11 Memorialchanged in the years following those wars, but with our technology, we should be able to keep the memory of the terrorist attacks in the front of our children’s thoughts, so that as they grow, we don’t lose sight of what the evil in this world can bring about.

I did not know anyone who lost their life on 9-11, but I did know someone who could have been in the middle of that whole thing. My daughter’s friend, Carina, who has been like a third daughter to me since they were in Kindergarten, was a flight attendant during that time with Continental Airlines, based out of New Jersey. She was sick that day, and so was not flying. That did not alleviate her parents’ concerns, because they didn’t know that she was not flying and they Benghazi Attackcouldn’t get a hold of her, because she had turned her phone off. When we knew that she was safe, we all gave a sigh of relief. It is a feeling of relief that we will never forget.

Now twelve years later we are again remembering a horrible terrorist attack against our nation, this time in Benghazi. Our government became too complacent about our safety both here and abroad, and again…people died…on a day when we should have been watchful!!! It is an atrocity!! When will we learn that we cannot forget. There is so much evil in this world and we must remain watchful, or we will be attacked again. Today, I pay tribute to those lost in all of these attacks, and to those who gave their lives trying to help others. Rest in peace.

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