Tyger Vollrath, 40
Founder of PS WebSolution, in Smyrna; former volunteer firefighter
Where were you when you heard the news? I had the misfortune of watching the horrific events as I was traveling to the Newark, N.J., airport for a flight to Atlanta.
What do you remember about that day and the days that followed? After witnessing the second plane collision and the first tower collapse, many off duty New York firefighters were rushing into the city to their respective stations on the same road I was traveling on. As you can imagine, traffic was at a stand still. One such New York firefighter was stuck in traffic next to me and I was able to inquire if they would need any help and that I was a firefighter from Georgia. He immediately said that they would need all the help they could get and that I should park my car in the state police parking lot at the entrance to the Hol-land Tunnel and ride with him into the city. After arriving at the nearest fire station in Manhattan, I was given a full set of turn-out gear and as a group we were transported to the scene of the now fallen towers around 10:30 a.m. For the next 26 hours we performed search and rescue in the surrounding buildings while also extinguishing any hotspots or fires we came across. To describe the disaster scene is difficult. The entire area was covered in a cloud of cement dust and smoke which made visibility less than one city block and provided us all with a nasty cough and swollen irritated eyes. The debris itself consisted of only steel and paper with cement dust packed in between. No cement blocks or items that could be moved by hand, only massive steel I beams and dust. This in itself made searching for survivors almost impossible without the assistance of cranes to move the massive beams or welding torches to cut through the smaller ones. After searching two nearby buildings for any survivors and fighting some small interior fires on vari-ous floors, we were pulled from the WTC #3 (Verizon building that later collapsed) because the engineers feared it would collapse due to the foundation being unstable. After the building number three collapsed, we continued putting out fires in what we now called ‘The Pile’ until afternoon the next day. While perform-ing search and rescue operations in the federal building, I befriended a group of firefighters from the FDNY Engine 318/Ladder 166 company. Little did I know that they would soon become my close friends as we worked together to put out the remaining fires and search for potential survivors. I became a mem-ber of this team by working side by side with them. All of these men and women lost close friends and/or relatives in the collapse, yet they all worked diligently to locate their fallen comrades. There have been various descriptions of heroes over the past week, but I have my own definition. Heroes are those men and women that lost or risked their lives to help others without regard for their own safety. Imagine being one of the firefighters that entered the second tower after the first had collapsed; knowing that this tower would also probably fall soon. Being a hero is working through your emotions of grief and anger as you frantically search for 300 of your colleagues and co-workers when it would be so easy to break down and just give up hope.
What does 9/11 mean to you now? I’ve been asked by many about what will I take away from my ex-periences or what memories will remain from my time in New York. Most expect me to talk about the horrors and the destruction, but gladly that’s not what comes to mind. There’s nothing I saw that com-pletely shocked me, as I expected to see chaos and devastation. Yes, I was breathless while looking over the massive pile of debris. The descriptions of ‘movie set like’ and ‘surreal’ are very accurate, but I would have to add one important adjective, awe. The sheer size and vastness of the destruction literally takes your breath away. However, the memories I will always have of this event are the friendships, public sup-port and patriotism. The friendships of fellow firefighters that treated me as a guest and fellow colleague, the support of the general public whom gave of themselves by bringing supplies of water, food, clothes, and most of all, moral support. I have no doubt that I received over 50 hugs and handshakes from com-plete strangers in less than four days. This support is what kept all of us working, sometimes for more than 24 hours. And then there was the patriotism. I saw people of all races and religions that were once divided over petty differences, now related by one common thread, their country. On my drive home from New York to Atlanta on Friday night, I couldn’t go 10 miles without seeing a U.S. flag proudly hanging on bridges, buildings, road signs or vehicles. This alone stirs deep pride and emotion in me. In light of this nations worst tragedy, it might be one of our finest hours.
Sam Heaton, 49
Chief, Cobb County Fire Dept.
Where were you when you heard the news? I had been deputy chief of operations for about 9 months and we were having a battalion chiefs meeting at fire headquarters when we got word a plane had crashed into the towers. The chief had heard it and came in to tell us it occurred, so we hovered around the TV screen and I think we went back to the meeting thinking it was a horrible accident until we heard another one had hit. At that point, we knew something was up.
For most fire fighters and myself, after the cameras got in close to the scene when the dust wasn’t cleared yet but you could hear the chirping noise, which was the accountability safety devices on fire fight-ers that go off when they lay still for a certain period of time. It’s a high, piercing noise and when you could hear a chorus of those, every fire fighter in the nation knew what that was and knew there were probably hundreds of them down. It’s a really bad feeling, when you hear that.
What do you remember about that day and the days that followed? Usually we would go into plan-ning events for the next month or so, but we began to look at how this might affect us. I’ll never forget when they said the first tower collapsed, usually you would think that the top part would fall off, but when saw it drop like it did knowing were so many people still inside it, I was in shock. The events of the day, the Pentagon, it was just throughout the day, a feeling of shock.
What does 9/11 mean to you? When you see those images on TV, even ten years later, you feel sor-row for the fire fighters and families and all of the people that were affected; you feel pride in what’s going on now with the freedom tower that’s being built. It’s showing we don’t give up. And you feel anger that there’s still those people out there wanting to do harm.
Janei Smiley, 17
President of Marietta High School senior class; ROTC cadet major
Where were you when you heard the news? I was in the second grade at Park Street Elementary. The teachers did not tell us anything at school. My mom worked at Park Street, but she wasn’t there that day. My mom heard about it at the doctor’s office. She got back to Park Street as fast as she could. I stayed at school in class but on the way home, my mom talked to me about it and tried to explain it to me without making me scared. I know my mom was scared because we have so much family in New York, but she didn’t want to put that worry on me. When we got home, she sat us down and made sure we had some understanding of what was happening before she turned on the TV. My Dad is a police officer in New York and he was in New York on 9/11. We didn’t hear anything from Dad until very late that night. He called after we were asleep and my mom woke us up to let us hear his voice. I have been back to New York and everything is really different in that area.
What do you remember about that day and the days that followed? We started doing some differ-ent things at home. My mom kept asking us what we were grateful for…. I thought, “This is early, we usu-ally do this at Thanksgiving.” At school, we started studying about New York, about landmarks like The Statue of Liberty and what she meant. We talked to my Dad a lot more often and I think that relationship really changed and grew after 9/11.
What does 9/11 mean to you? Today, it means a day of sacrifice and remembrance. We must always remember those we lost and those who sacrificed their lives for us. It is a day that will be studied, but I am not sure that those who didn’t experience will have the same understanding as those of us who remember it personally.
John Houser, 53
Chief, Cobb County Police
Where were you when you heard the news? I was actually at police headquarters. I was at the of-fice. I was a lieutenant. We were at the office and we got the news that there had been a plane crash in New York and immediately everyone tuned into the TV. The second crash, we all realized this was some-thing more than an accident. Over the years, these types of terroristic incidents are things we’ve talked about and are trained and prepared to respond to. But when we plan for events, it’s something you really don’t think will occur, so this was just such a shock and eye-opening.
What do you remember about that day and the days that followed? Just like everyone else, every-one was concerned where this came from, would there be additional attacks, and thinking about what we could do at the local level in preparation for any response we may need to do, not knowing what was going to occur next.
What does 9/11 mean to you? It just shows the vulnerability that we have in the U.S. Because of the freedom we share, we have the luxury in this country that also puts us at risk. It’s been tragic but it’s brought the law enforcement together — local, state and federal levels. Due to unfortunate incidents, it’s brought us all closer.
Joe Dendy, 66
Travel agency co-owner, chairman Cobb GOP
Where were you when you heard the news? I was still at home on the morning of 9/11/2001 when my wife called and told me to turn on the TV to the news. I did, and like everyone else, wondered how the pilot of a small plane could not miss a skyscraper. I was about to walk away from the TV and go back to getting ready to go to a meeting when I saw the second plane fly into the second tower. Wow! I just stood there in total shock, realizing that this was not an accident and that someone was purposely killing thou-sands of Americans.
What do you remember about that day and the days that followed? This realization immediately brought back images of my combat time in Vietnam as I continued to watch the events of that day unfold. Just like most people, I stayed glued to the TV the entire day. By the next morning, another realization hit me. With the closing of the air space and with the fear that was in everyone’s mind, our travel clients started calling to cancel their travel plans, one after another until every booking we had was totally gone. We also had clients calling from the West Coast and from overseas who were stranded. We could not do much for the ones in foreign countries, but we immediately started finding rental cars for those in Califor-nia. We ended up with a large caravan of rental cars traveling across the country back to Georgia. Four weeks after that terrible day, my wife and I drove to Miami to leave for a cruise. The site at the cruise terminal again reminded me of a war zone. Never before had I seen uniformed soldiers in full combat gear with automatic weapons guarding a facility on American soil. This was a scary sight! That image is still very vivid in my mind; and with that image comes the total resolve I have to do everything I can to continue to preserve the freedoms that I grew up knowing and want my grandchildren to know.
What does 9/11 mean to you? We must not let anyone from outside or inside this great nation take away our cherished freedoms.
Michelle Cooper Kelly, 40
Senior manager with Anheuser-Busch, InBev
Where were you when you heard the news? I was at work when my husband called to inform me of what was thought to be a mishap plane that crashed into one of the World Trade Center Twin Towers. I immediately went into my conference room, turned on CNN and within minutes watched the second plane crash into the World Trade Center. My husband and I were on the phone speechless watching thousands of people running for safety. At that time, we both knew those weren’t accidental plane crashes.
What do you remember about that day and the days that followed? I remember having feelings of despair and disbelief that something like this could happen to our country, America, The Land of the Free. Who would attack America and so many innocent people? And why? Days following, I found myself fixed on the news, hopeful for those families looking to reconnect with their loved ones and paining for those whose loved ones had been perished. So many children left without parents. At the time, I was a new mom of a 9-month-old and couldn’t help but to fear for his safety and future.
What does 9/11 mean to you? 9/11 to me is a time of remembrance! Remembering how our country united together on one accord for the fight against terrorism. Remembering all the great soldiers who defended our great nation. Still today, when my husband and I see soldiers in the airport or out and about in uniform, we thank them for their service. It’s our honor to do that.
Leigh Colburn, 45
Principal, Marietta High School
Where were you when you heard the news? I was an assistant principal at Dunleith Elementary.
What do you remember about that day and the days that followed? I remember 9/11 as a day of terror, uncertainty, courage, and anger. Information was evolving and changing so quickly. Individuals in leadership positions needed to make instant decisions with imperfect information and little to rely upon with regard to protocols and precedence. As school leaders, we debated what and how much was appro-priate to tell our students. Should we lock down the building? Should we transport children home? How would we respond to a rush of individuals trying to check students out to take them home? Teachers and administrators were experiencing our own range of emotions and yet we needed to continue to operate the schools with lots of little eyes watching. As the day progressed, we realized staff and students had loved ones in the areas of the terror attacks so we were dealing with those emotions as well. At the time, Dunleith Elementary enrolled a small group of Muslim children and they were absent for several days following 9/11. Their families were afraid to leave their homes and afraid to allow their children to return to school. The Dunleith administration reached out to the local mosque and to those families, and the children returned to school the following week. When the students returned to school, I remember that many of them were dressed in red, white, and blue and it was obvious they and their parents were afraid. We did everything we could to reassure them, but dealing with their concerns did allow me to view this tragedy through a different lens.
What does 9/11 mean to you? Now when I think of 9/11, I most remember the courage shown by or-dinary people who performed extraordinary acts of courage and selflessness. I remember that we cannot control the actions of others, we can only control our response. To me, 9/11 evokes feelings of sadness for those lives lost and pride in being an American - all at the same time.
Brent Brown, 47
Chairman and CEO, Chesley Brown International, Inc.
Where were you when you heard the news? I was in Tokyo at the home of my uncle, Dan Burruss, who was head of Delta Airlines for Asia at the time. I was scheduled to return the next day, so we were having our final dinner when the phone rang and the Coke executive in Tokyo called to tell Dan a plane had hit the World Trade Center. We immediately went to watch CNN International and watched as the second plane hit the tower. Delta’s Atlanta HQ called my Uncle Dan, and he looked at me and said, “you aren’t going home.” Thanks to Dan’s position with Delta, he had additional communications ability in his home, and I was able to speak with Chesley Brown’s Corporate Command center in Atlanta and get a briefing from my senior management team. With security responsibilities around the country, we were very busy. Because we also had a command center in Kansas City, I was able to maintain communications with my staff even when Atlanta phone service became jammed up. Since I was stuck in Japan for the next several days, I was asked to help advise the American Tokyo Business Club and the American School in Japan on how to handle their security in the aftermath of 9/11. Being out of the country was surreal, as was returning to the U.S. to find armed military at the airports. I was also in N.Y. a few weeks later on business and seeing Ground Zero literally still smoking was a sight and smell I will never forget.
What do you remember about that day and the days that followed? Our world had changed for-ever. Being in the security business, the term ‘post-9/11’ is often used. Also I might mention my first do-mestic flight after 9/11 was very quiet and people looked at each other as if to say either ‘I can trust you to be with me or I can take you!’
What does 9/11 mean to you? It’s our Pearl Harbor. Being a student of history, I feel we lived through a critical part of history. It also means being ever vigilant.
Cobb NAACP president
Where were you when you heard the news? Sept. 10 is my birthday. I was in the Biloxi, Miss., Grand Casino.
What do you remember about that day and the days that followed? I came down to have breakfast and everybody was looking at the television. We see where the second plane crashed and all this smoke. It’s absolutely unbelievable. Everybody was aware in this room, where we came into, that this is an attack and these people have ran into a building in New York.
What does 9/11 mean to you? We are vulnerable.
Dan Cox, 72
CEO/Founder Marietta Museum of History
Where were you when you heard the news? At work.
What do you remember about that day and the days that followed? I thought when the first plane hit it was an accident. When the second plane hit I did not fully understand what was happening and the expression on President Bush’s face when he was told about it.
What does 9/11 mean to you? I can’t say what I really think. This I will say, if martyrdom is that great, why aren’t the leaders carrying out the suicides instead of the no names?
Clem Doyle, 38
Where were you when you heard the news? In my office in Atlanta
What do you remember about that day and the days following? I worked in the financial district of Manhattan in the mid-1990s, and knew several former college classmates who were working there in 2001. On 9/11, I called a football teammate and he went down the list of people working in the (Twin) Towers. Everyone was okay, except that our friends were still waiting to hear from Chris Ingrassia, a big defensive tackle from New Jersey who had a ‘teddy bear’ personality. I went online and saw that his firm, Cantor Fitzgerald, was above the 100th floor of Tower One, which was the first tower to be hit. That is when I knew he was probably gone. Of the 658 employees in his office that morning, not one survived. Chris’s remains were never found.”
What does 9/11 mean to you? “On Sunday I am going to try to explain this event to my young sons, ages nine and six. I think I will tell them about my old teammate and about the things that were lost that day. I will let them know that this world can be a dangerous place, so we therefore rely on our faith in God. I pray that they learn to be proud of their country and the sacrifices that are required.”
Blaine Clotfelter, 41
Where were you when you heard the news? I was in the lobby of a hotel getting ready to go into a conference, sitting in front of the TV, waiting on everybody else to show up. There was a group of us watching the events unfold. It was in Atlanta, down in Buckhead.
What do you remember about that day and the days following? The memory that sticks out … the first building was already smoking and I remember seeing the plane flying towards the second one and thinking, ‘That plane must be trying to get close to see what’s going on … investigate what happened.’ So, when it hit the second building, I thought the second plane had gotten too close. We had a couple of col-leagues that I knew that were in New York and we were unsure as to whether they were in the building or not. We did have some folks on the floor there. I just remember never having a feeling like that before. I didn’t know how to feel.
What does 9/11 mean to you? I travel a lot. I’m at the airport enough to where I think about it often, not just on an anniversary, or not every Sept. 11, but I think about it all the time. I guess I’m fortunate to not know anyone personally or very well that either died or was affected by it.
Harris Hines, 68
Justice, Supreme Court of Georgia
Where were you when you heard the news? I was walking into the chambers of then Chief Justice Norman Fletcher. I first heard a plane had struck one of the Twin Towers and my first thought was, ‘Was this a horrible accident?’ When we learned what had actually taken place … your first thought was a great sadness and concern for those who lost their lives … and the true heroes, fireman, police personnel and emergency responders who sacrificed themselves in the attempt to save others. These are true heroic people.
What do you remember about that day and the days following? Since that time, your thought of what is a hero has kind of changed, as say a sports hero or a movie star or even a political hero. But you say, look, the men and women who serve as police officers … firefighters … emergency personnel… are true heroes. You continue to have great sadness and empathy for those who lost loved ones. It makes you mindful of the great and unprecedented freedoms that we enjoy in this country that’s the envy of the world. We have to be constantly vigilant to see that that’s not taken away from us by those who wish us ill. You have a great respect for armed services and for everybody who has made sacrifices.
What does 9/11 mean to you? We take a moment to remember that day and those who lost their lives … to remember those and be grateful for those who protect our lives. We usually do that at a meal – we always do that and it’s important to us. We usually go and ride around the city … whenever we have the flags out. I like riding through the city and county and seeing the flags. It makes me proud and grateful to be an American.
Marlon Longacre, 47
Community pastor at NorthStar Church, Kennesaw
Where were you when you heard the news? I was teaching character education at Kennesaw Moun-tain High School with a group of seniors. We watched it right there on the television. You’re watching their whole world change in front of their eyes. Those same kids that were in that room gave their lives for our country and came back, not whole as they once were, with battle scars of combat. Those are the same kids that I was sitting there in that same classroom, teaching. I mean gosh you have to pass that on. You have to pass on the sacrifice of others. Somebody is fighting on foreign soil so that we have our freedoms. I just watched those kids and they knew that their world was going to change. Their whole lives were turned upside down. They knew that they’d have to respond and the responsibility.
What do you remember about that day and the days following? The thing that I remember that day, thinking that our nation was under attack. I’m the last of the baby boomers. I was too young for Viet-nam. I lived under the greatest times of peace. Until Desert Storm, I had a big window of peace. Then we were attacked, that was the first time in history that I had the responsibility of remembering history. Now, I have to be the one that shares the story to my kids. It was the first time on American soil that we were attached. The character (education) for that day was responsibility, and all these years later I think that was interesting.
What does 9/11 mean to you? When I look back on it, I think 9/11 is a way to remind me that I live in the greatest country. It’s a reminder that there’s a lot of people that really don’t like us. It was a wake-up call for the American citizens. To never take for granted. Pass on a legacy so that we never forget what happens.
Claire Dunaway, 31
School teacher and artist
Where were you when you heard the news? It was my senior year of college. We were getting ready for our commencement and I missed the ceremony because I couldn’t get away from the TV. We were watching in disbelief. We were obviously thinking that someone made a horrible mistake and accidentally did that and as we were talking about that, the second plane flew into the second tower.
What do you remember about that day and the days following? Just feeling sick to the stomach. I kept remembering the images of the people jumping out of the buildings and the desperation. I remember wanting to call everybody I loved and let them know how I felt. My sister had lived in New York and I re-member calling my sister to see if all of her friends were okay.
What does 9/11 mean to you? It reminds me that no matter how differently we see things politically, that we all need to come together. It reminds me, on a sad note, that we have to be diligent and be aware that there are people out there who want us dead and would love for another 9/11 to happen. Hold the ones we love near and dear.
Steve Imler, 60
Where were you when you heard the news? I was on the way to work in Sandy Springs in the car and my best friend called me and mentioned the first plane had hit and what a disaster it was, a horrible accident, and told me to go check it out. I got to the office about 9 a.m. I turned on the TV and moments later and the second plane hit.
What do you remember about that day and the days following? Worked from home, just sat in hor-ror watching it (on TV) in awe and realizing the world had changed.
What does 9/11 mean to you? It shows that we’re in a long-term struggle with people who want to harm and change our way of life. It was the beginning … there isn’t going to be a clear end. It just shows a different struggle we’ll have for a long, long time. It’s a remembrance. It’s a solemn thing. It’s a personal thing, a community event, but it’s a personal memory.
Tommy Keough, 18
Whitefield Academy senior, student body vice president
Where were you when you heard the news? I was living in Cleveland, Ohio, and I had just gotten home from school when I saw the news on TV.
What do you remember about that day and the days that followed? I remember that when I got home, the TV was already on in my dad’s office and I stood there for what must have been 30 minutes before I could pull myself away and go do something else. My mom was crying and kept saying, ‘It’s horri-fying,’ whenever she walked by the TV. The interesting thing was, it seemed like a completely normal day until I started watching the TV after school. I rode the bus and did my schoolwork, but when I got home everything changed. Since, I was only in second grade back then, I was pretty innocent and didn’t really think anyone could hurt so many people like that.
What does 9/11 mean to you? 9/11 has a special significance. On that day, my father was supposed to attend a meeting on the 40th floor of the World Trade Center at 10 a.m. That meant he should have been inside the building when the planes hit; however, something came up at his office at home and he ended up sending another woman instead. From what my dad tells me, she was just walking into the building when one of the planes hit and suffered post-traumatic stress disorder for years after that. 9/11 is horrible to think about, yes. And I can’t imagine how different my life would be had my dad been in the WTC at the time of the attacks.
Calvin Diemer, 52
Owner, Days Chevrolet
Where were you when you heard the news? I was at a conference room in the dealership in a meet-ing, and we turned the TV on and saw the second plane go into the building. Someone at the dealership came in and told us about the first one. We watched it all day. We didn’t realize what was going on until the second one flew in.
At the time, it made me feel like we were more vulnerable as a nation. It seemed like the security wasn’t what you thought it was. It was unbelievable that something like this could happen in America.
What do you remember about that day and the days that followed? It was sad and tragic for the families and for the whole country.
What does 9/11 mean to you? I think it changed the world. It changed something in every American. It changed the way we do things – airport securities, the fact that you know that this threat is real and not just something you read about. You’re seeing terroristic attacks on other countries on regular basis, but before 9/11, it was always in the far distance. You never thought could be on your homeland.
Larry Savage, 67
Where were you when you heard the news? I was in the kitchen reading the paper, having break-fast, and the “Today” show was on and Katie Couric was doing an interview and she got a puzzled look and put her finger to her earpiece and said, “We’re getting a report and may break way, we’re hearing an airplane has hit the World Trade Center?” And she said it like it was a question. She looked at the camera and they broke away to a reporter who tried to report on it, but all it really was was a camera shot out-doors, with the building smoking, and it was a while before anything came through. It was a beautiful, clear day, I thought there was no way it was an accident. And as news developed, it was evident that it was not. I called my brother in Gwinnett County, and told him, “Our lives have changed forever.”
And they have changed forever, in some ways we could not have contemplated at the time. Security, inconvenience, our inconvenience is pretty trivial but it is imbedded permenantly. Air travel used to be fun and at least tolerable and now it isn’t. It’s going to be like that for a long time, through our lifetimes at least. It keeps incrementally getting worse, with more and more facilities with metal detectors at the door, things that we couldn’t have imagined 15 years ago.
What do you remember about that day and the days that followed? It gave a temporary lift to our sense of patriotism and sense of country and way of life. Some of that has been slipping away in more recent years, but it gave a reference point to remember what it’s about to have a sense of pride in your country.
What does 9/11 mean to you? It is a turning point in history where we had to recognize that we were no longer safe at home. We’ve had the advantage through centuries of being an impenetrable island be-cause any attack would have to cross an ocean and that’s not easy to do, but 9/11 told us we were no longer safe. Things like suitcase nukes tell us that it’s not just a small thing that can be done, but that there can be a tremendous attacks done to us.
Eden Leo, 36
Property management, Colonial Properties
Where were you when you heard the news? I was working for the court system in Cartersville. We were listening to the radio, and the news cut in and told us what was going on. I was in a state of shock at first and couldn’t really comprehend what was going on. We didn’t know if it was an accident or if it was a terrorist plot, but when the second plane hit, everyone knew there was more to this. Someone with our maintenance staff found an old TV and we pulled it in just to see what was going on.
I just remember feeling scared and helpless and worried about people up there and not knowing where Atlanta fit in the whole picture. No one knew how extensive this was going to be. I worked in this old court-house in Cartersville, which wouldn’t have been under any threat, but it was so upsetting we all went home to be with our families. We weren’t sure how everything would pan out and wanted to be near our families so we could leave if we needed to. I had some friends in Atlanta in the tall buildings, and those were evacuating. I remember having a combination of feelings that I was so helpless to help my friends in New York and I realized how helpless we were to help them, combined with the fear of what was happening worldwide.
What do you remember about that day and the days that followed? Just being numb and it made me look at the world differently. I was 26 and had never seen anything like that. We had been in the De-sert Storm and had some friends go off to war, but that’s all I knew about war in our country. I just remem-ber feeling there was ‘before’ Sept. 11 and ‘after.’ Not that I was naïve, but it made everything so real and made me realize there really is evil in this world. I’ve never looked at things the same since. But it also restored my faith in people because I saw all of these volunteers and people losing their lives to help other people. It gave me more faith in people but combined with the reality that there is evil in this world. There are times where I feel like sometimes people forget how intense that was when it happened. These mo-ments take me back to that and we remember.
What does 9/11 mean to you? It’s combined with respect for all of the people who lost their lives, re-spect for their families who have survived all of this, people who are now raising their children without the other parent, all of the soldiers who have fought for our country, but also pride that we have gotten past this and are even stronger than we were before. Even bad situations can bring out the best in our country. We have even more pride than before because it’s brought people together.
D.A. King, 59
President, Dustin Inman Society, a pro-enforcement immigration reform group
Where were you when you heard the news? I was an insurance agent at the time. I was sitting at my home office at the same desk I’m at now and my wife called me and said to turn on the TV, there’s been an accident in New York. I watched it all day and watched as the second plane crashed into the tower. I was glued to the television. I had a stack of empty VHS tapes in the VCR player and started taping every-thing. There was a sense once the second plane hit that we were under attack, and there was a sense of history in the making, but I couldn’t bear to watch them again. I still kind of tear up when watching the second plane hit.
Like most of the world, I was amazed that people actually hated this country enough to do what they had done on purpose as news came in about the plane crashes at the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania. I had also just started studying illegal immigration and I was very aware that our border was not secure and it’s still not and I remember asking myself if people are coming over our border illegally to do us harm.
What do you remember about that day and the days that followed? I kept hearing about the new normal. I’m a history freak and I remember thinking everything’s different now, which was presented a lot on TV. I didn’t leave the house much for a few days and I remember when I did run errands, I was in a restaurant where there was a group of people who were laughing and partying and drinking as if nothing had happened and I couldn’t grasp that. I took me months to shake that.
What does 9/11 mean to you? It mostly means there are radical Islamists who want to destroy my country and will do anything they can to that end. They are still there and just so people understand, our border is still not secure. I have seen them at the border from countries with known terrorist ties. 9/11 was my generation’s Pearl Harbor and I am hopeful that people who were too young then to understand it don’t dismiss 9/11 as something that happened prior and has no implications. Traveling the world, I can tell you that many people out there hate us, and constant vigilance is certainly the answer.
Jason Fincher, 36
Judge, Cobb State Court
Where were you when you heard the news? I was a law clerk in the Superior Court of Cobb County. We were in court that morning when we heard the news.
What do you remember about that day and the days that followed? I remember standing in the courtroom thinking this can’t be real, that the information we received must have been incorrect. I’ll never forget going back into the office, turning on the TV, and seeing the second plane hit the second tower. I can’t describe the sick feeling I had in my stomach seeing the events unfold. In the days following, I’ll always remember the sense of patriotism that was felt throughout the entire country and the deep sense of pride in being an American.
What does 9/11 mean to me? One word sums it up for me: pride. Although 9/11 was the worst terror-ist attack in American history, the way the nation came together after the horrific events of that day is overwhelming. 9/11 means to me, in the words of the famous Lee Greenwood song, “I’m proud to be an American.”
The Rev. Dwight Graves, 63
President, Cobb Southern Christian Leadership Conference
Where were you when you heard the news? At home working on my computer.
What do you remember about that day and the days that followed? Shock and disbelief.
What does 9/11 mean to you? It means that we should continue to pray for America and be vigilant about those who hate America.