Memories of 9/11

Albuquerque ground to a halt

I was mayor of Albuquerque on 9/11.

That morning I received a call from the Airport manager that airliners in the sector were being diverted to Albuquerque and that they were taking up space on the runways and taxiways. I hadn’t watched news that morning and this was how I learned of the attack.

I went directly to my office in City Hall and ordered the Emergency Operations Center to be activated for the first time so that the city could be prepared for any eventuality. The city ground to a halt. Later that afternoon I took a helicopter ride around the metro area and found it to be eerily quiet. Everyone was inside watching the events in NYC at the Trade Center.

We went to the Airport to greet and set up services for all the stranded passengers. Albuquerque came together.

Jim Baca

In the air when news broke

On Tuesday, September 11, 2001, my husband and I were on a Sabena flight from Brussels to Dallas, returning from a rare and special vacation.

At about 11 a.m. ADT our pilot announced, “Ladies and gentlemen, in about 20 minutes we will be landing in St. Johns, Newfoundland.”

We soon learned that we had been directed to land at the nearest airport “due to major air crashes in the U.S.” During a long wait on the tarmac, our pilot tuned his radio to the local CBC station where we got all the news, including President Bush’s declaration of war.

Eventually we were welcomed warmly to Canada and treated with the greatest kindness, generosity and respect imaginable until we could finally get home to Albuquerque nearly a week later. Thus began our love affair with Maritime Canada, which continues to today.

Susan Collins

‘Turn on the TV! We’re under attack!’

On the morning of 9/11, my wife, Paula, and I were having coffee in our house in California.

The phone rang, and it was our daughter. She was at her first job after college, working as an aide on U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s Washington, D.C., staff.

The call was brief — “Turn on the TV! We’re under attack!”

We complied, and then tried to call her back, but the phone lines were totally overwhelmed. Finally, later that evening, she was able to call us back from her apartment. The staff were kept in the Senate offices for about five hours, before they were allowed to leave.

David Blacher

‘I knew the world had changed’

I was a U.S. Air Force lieutenant colonel, stationed in the Pentagon on 9/11.

One of our section officers called after the first plane crash, telling us to turn on the news. We were stunned to see a commercial airliner crash into the tower, and speculated on how this could have occurred.

After the second crash, we knew these events were intentional, deliberate attacks.

Shortly thereafter, the building shook hard and we heard the explosion of the third plane crashing into the Pentagon. Alarms went off, and we began evacuating the building. The halls were eerily quiet even though jammed with personnel.

The evacuation was orderly and we were out in several minutes. The odor of burning jet fuel hung in the air and sirens were wailing. We crossed I-395 to Pentagon City, which was a scene of chaos. Seeing smoke pouring from the Pentagon, I knew the world had changed.

Steven Rinaldi

Staten Island resident recalls ‘quiet sadness’

I was on my way to vote in the New York City Primary election. Mayor Rudy Giuliani would soon finish his second term as mayor, and it was important to choose his successor. But when the announcement of the bombing of the Twin Towers came over the radio, the mayoral election and everything else were overshadowed by the tragedy.

I changed my destination to my office, where everyone was sad and anxious. The Twin Towers were only a few miles from Staten Island, where I lived and worked. I remember only the quiet sadness of the remainder of the day.

The next day, Staten Island was locked down because of a suspicious car. There was no actual problem, but the police had to be cautious. No one knew what might happen next.

A few days later I rode near the World Trade Center. I still remember the horrible smell of burning.

Sept. 11, 2001, is a day that will always remain in my memory. I didn’t know anyone who was there, but it felt as though the whole city was there.

Lucy Birbiglia

Fighter jets were flying outside DC windows

I heard the news on my way to work at the International Labor Office in Washington, D.C. After the second plane hit, I knew this was really horrible.

At work, all of our small staff and a few European visitors were in the director’s office watching television.

At 19th and L Streets we were close enough to the White House and other government buildings to be in the no-fly zone, but there were fighter jets flying outside the windows on Sept. 11.

We heard that the plane that eventually crashed in Pennsylvania was coming toward the State Department or the Capitol.

All of our eternal thanks and condolences should go to the families of the brave passengers on the plane in Pennsylvania who gave their lives to save others and to all the families and friends who lost so much in New York and at the Pentagon.

Marjorie Crow

‘Anxiety and grief’ every August, September

I grew up in the Washington, D.C., area. When 9/11 happened, I was a college freshman in Northern Virginia.

For the first time, I realized that Americans were vulnerable to attack just like the rest of the world.

The D.C. attack hit me in a very personal way because that region and its landmarks were my home.

For months whenever you drove past the Pentagon, you could see the huge hole in it.

Honestly, 9/11 changed everything for me. My generation fought the wars. Within a few years, I had been a bridesmaid in two separate weddings where one partner was about to be deployed for a second time to the Middle East.

It’s been 20 years and I still have anxiety and grief for several weeks every August and September.

Lee Ann Bisulca

Traumatic birthday

The 9/11 horror was especially traumatic for me because it was my birthday.

That fateful day, I used a vacation day from work, like I always do, and slept in. I woke up that morning with the intent of having a leisurely, relaxing day.

I turned on the TV in my bedroom and was curious as to why the “Today” show was showing two smoking buildings. I turned the channel to “GMA” and got the same result. For that matter, ESPN, the Weather Channel and Nickelodeon were ALL preempted and showing the same exact shot.

I knew something horribly wrong had occurred when the network evening news guys, Dan Rather, Peter Jennings and Tom Brokaw were all on the air that morning. It took me a few minutes to connect the dots, but I eventually realized what happened that awful morning. I sat there in my bed paralyzed with horror. Sick to my stomach.

I then felt guilty having the nerve to want to celebrate my day. Survivors guilt? Probably. I later found out there were support groups consisting of others whose birthday is also Sept. 11. It made me feel better knowing it wasn’t just me who felt guilty. I’m better now. Doctors’ and dentists’ office personnel no longer give me “the look” when I tell them my birthdate: 9/11. Worst birthday ever.
George Scott

Students’ questions

Sept. 11, 2001, 8:50 a.m.: I opened the door to let my third graders into class.

Every child asked me if I knew a plane had “hit this tall building” in New York?

They had frightened looks in their eyes, but I reassured them that we were “far away from New York City” and we were very safe here in our classroom.

Parents started trickling in throughout the day to pick up their children. When one parent, whose husband was the manager of Coronado Center, came in and said they were closing down the shopping center for safety reasons, it suddenly hit closer to home.

Now it was the teacher with the frightened look in her eyes.

Renee Rodarte-Keeling

Leaning on faith

Twenty years ago at this time I had recently become a widow. It was a very difficult time, and I was leaning on my faith to get me through those grief ridden days.

On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, I had the “Today” show on television and heard the commentators say that a plane had hit one of the trade towers.

As I turned to focus on the TV, I saw the second plane hit the other trade tower. The unbelievable was happening right in front of me and the whole country.

In the days that followed, our nation united. Nobody cared about political differences or the color of one another’s skin. We were all American citizens.

Sadly, that unity has been lost. Today, race problems abound, and our political system is as acrimonious as it’s ever been. As for me, I continue to lean on my faith.

Mary Wentworth

Still affected

I was in Ruidoso on that Tuesday. I was working for NMEDD. I saw the TV coverage of the first airplane flying into a World Trade Center tower.

I immediately called my brother, Richard Thompson; his company office was in Lower Manhattan. I knew he had views of the twin towers; I’ve been there many times.

When Richard answered his phone, as we were talking, he witnessed the second airplane attack the second tower. I remembered what he said … I won’t repeat it … but it was devastating!

Through all of the devastation, Richard took/walked all of his staff to safety to his home in Upper Manhattan. My sister, Ruthann, had just left the Pentagon, prior to the attack there. From Santa Fe to New York, Pentagon, & Shanksville, Pennsylvania, as AMERICANS, we are still affected … 20 YEARS LATER! GOD BLESS AMERICA!

Rosemary Thompson
Santa Fe


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