"I can't remember why, but I was running late that morning getting ready to head out the door to ... . " Those words describe how a young lady faced a world-changing event 20 years ago, an event that is being remembered by hundreds, yes, millions, who recall where they were that September morning.
It was a Tuesday, not like Mondays, and in newspaper offices like those in Gentry, Gravette and Decatur, editors were scrambling under pressure to "get out" that week's newspaper. For everyone, it began as a typical September morning, a day that, for the United States, would become another "Day of Infamy." That remembrance will peak this Saturday as people remember Sept. 11, 2001. But it wasn't simple that morning!
Television screens were filled with unbelievable pictures, pictures of a portion of the New York City skyline filled with flames and smoke from the World Trade Center, which had been hit by an airline jet -- a plane that had been hijacked to destroy, a plane that was one of four on routes to destroy places, things and people. Filling the screens were pictures of people, hundreds of them, running for their lives as they heard and watched a second huge plane deliberately crashing into a second building. That wasn't the end. That story is still being told today, along with the results it ignited 20 years ago.
All over the nation, in fact worldwide, the story was unfolding and it was a day when parents and relatives filled their lips with prayers and hopes and more prayers that their loved ones were alright.
You remember, don't you? You who were glued to the news when those two towers went down into heaps of death and destruction. Similar evil acts span the globe today, don't they?
But what about that young lady who began her day just a few short miles from where a third hijacked plane was lining up with more evil intentions?
Meet Terry Moore, whose roots travel back to Hiwasse where she enjoyed visiting her grandparents, James Russell Keith and Gladys Edwards Keith. Their daughter, Carolyn Keith Moore, and Glenn T. Moore are Terry's parents. She lived just across the Potomac River from our Nation's Capitol, a legal secretary at a small law firm in North Arlington, Virginia, who was watching her TV as she called a cab to take her to work.
"It was then I saw a banner on the screen: SPECIAL REPORT. A plane had crashed into the World Trade Center building in New York City. As I watched, a second plane flew into the second tower ... and I couldn't believe it ... but I knew it was no accident."
She put in a call to her workplace and told one of the partners, "Something terrible has happened in NYC," and told them to get to a television. She then rushed downstairs from her apartment to the cab. The driver, who was from Brooklyn, had the radio on, and "as we got down Lee Highway and turned off to the office, it blared off, 'The Pentagon was struck,'" she said.
"The rest of the morning was pretty much of a blur," she said. "We couldn't work. We just wandered around, getting reports on the internet and on the TV in the conference room. We heard the news about a fourth plane in Pennsylvania which had changed direction and I figured it probably was heading back to its intended target, maybe the White House or the Capitol building."
Later it was learned that, because of the heroism of the plane crew and passengers, the plane crashed in a Pennsylvania field.
She joined others from the office who went onto the roof of the building and saw the smoke rising from the Pentagon.
"We watched helicopters buzzing around," she said. "The street we were on runs parallel to the George Washington Parkway past the Pentagon, the Alexander Cemetery and the Reagan International Airport."
The Pentagon is less than three miles away, she explained.
"Around 2 p.m. the managing partner told us all to go home. But the question was, 'How would we get there?' Buses, subways, roads were shut down. For me, it meant a long walk back up Lee Highway, so I headed out," Terry said. "I remember it was such a pretty day, a warm, clear blue sky and just a few white clouds."
She smiled as she described the day ... but added, "It was also unusually quiet. We were used to hearing planes flying overhead regularly and, as I walked over to Lee Highway, there were no cars, no sounds from the streets."
She headed north for the 40-45 minute walk home.
"When I reached the Lee and Kirkwood Road intersection, I wondered where was the congestion at the usually-busy intersection. There was nothing and no one there except a soldier with a rifle standing squarely in the middle of the intersection. I remember looking at him and saying hello and, as I walked past, he nodded. Then I walked the last 15 minutes uphill and into my apartment."
Terry admits to not remembering much of the rest of the day except having the TV turned to the news.
"I remember calling home to my parents to tell them I was okay. Strangely I didn't feel frightened for my safety, being away from anything that would be an important target." But she added, "The first time I heard a plane fly overhead after the ban on flights was lifted, the sound startled me and even alarmed me."
That pretty well covers the first day, but later the results of the horrors were realized by her coworkers.
"One paralegal who grew up in New Jersey, across from Manhattan, lost 34 people from her church parish and high school graduating class in the WTC; a young woman, a native New Yorker lost two cousins, one a policeman, the other a fireman in the WTC; and one of the partners had clients who were on the plane that hit the Pentagon. It was so sad. It was an elderly couple who had recently married and managed to take a break for a belated honeymoon in Hawaii."
I enjoyed reading Terry's several pages of memories which described not only her feelings but also those of many others. There were many unbelievable days with still unbelievable happenings, just as there are many unbelievable actions and events 20 years later. Those in Eagle Observer country no doubt have just as many days locally or from your then-home place. Time, no doubt, has softened the blow of that morning but the result of those several hours of uncertainties and questions will never be complete as we venture to 20 years down the road.
Somehow goodness so often is disrupted by acts that are senseless or ... well, you know the rest of this story. Aren't there times and acts of disbelief when it's prayer and hope that see us through darkened skies?
Shouldn't we remember that these sometimes unbelievable days are forming the title as "good old days" for tomorrow's generations? The weight is always on the present shoulders to see that the tomorrows come through with patience and love and...
There are always special days, even like those of that special Sept. 11, 2001. Why? Because it brought us together to become a United States of America. Let it happen again.
Good memories and God's blessings until the next time. P.S. I forgot to mention that Terry now lives in a small West Virginia town taking care of her parents. Sadly, I just heard today she lost her mother, Carolyn, age 90, whom I enjoyed visiting with over the phone, reminiscing about Hiwasse, people and just good old days in America.
Dodie Evans is the former editor of the Gravette News Herald. Opinions expressed are those of the author.