Where were you on 9/11?

| September 8, 2011
Mourners lit candles at Union Square in New York after the attacks.

Mourners lit candles at Union Square in New York after the attacks.

Everyone has a story.

Brigid Kaelin was flying into Newark on Sept. 11, 2001, and watched the Twin Towers fall down from the window of the airport located across the bay.

William Coale was stranded at the Manila Hotel in the Philippines, where he was staying in room 911.

Michael Helm was a student at the University of Louisville who saw the horrific images on a TV screen and thought he was watching a brand-new sci-fi flick.

Kristie Hicks was in Pittsburgh, panicking as she waited to hear whether her sister, who’d started a new job at the Pentagon, was alive after hearing that a plane had crashed into the Pentagon.

Barry Bivin waved an American flag in St. Matthews to show his patriotism shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Barry Bivin waved an American flag in St. Matthews to show his patriotism shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Most Americans seem to remember with stark clarity where they were on 9/11, when terrorists hijacked four planes and forever changed our collective existence. Former University of Kentucky football player Robert Reynolds bears witness to that evolution every day.

A contracted representative of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Reynolds has worked on the World Trade Center rebuilding project since Sept. 10, 2010. His current focus: the Freedom Tower, formally called One World Trade Center. At 1,776 feet tall, “this is going to be the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere,” he said. “It’s us coming back in a bigger and better way.”

Reynolds decided to lend a hand in the rebuilding efforts surrounding Ground Zero after one of his relatives was killed in Afghanistan.

“That’s the main reason I’m taking the time to do this,” said Reynolds, a former high school history teacher and football coach. “It’s such a remarkable thing to now be part of history. It’s like when it first happened, you went through all these emotions, but as you go on – as time goes on – and once you get on site, it’s an honor to be a part of this.”

The men and women who have dedicated themselves to the post-9/11 rebuilding efforts have also committed themselves to remembering, too, day after day. “Those who died, they’re still there in their essence,” Reynolds said. “It’s very surreal and serene. You get up (into the Freedom Tower) and when you look down, you get a little choked up.”

Reynolds has also been moved to near tears while writing the names of troops killed while fighting for their country on the steel beams of the massive construction project with steel paint makers. “They’ll be etched on their forever,” he said.

Where were you on 9/11 and how have you changed? Tell us below in our comment section.

Robert Reynolds | courtesy A view from the new Freedom Tower of the rebuilding efforts in New York City.

Robert Reynolds | courtesy
A view from the new Freedom Tower of the rebuilding efforts in New York City.

Your Voice: Remembering 9/11

“I was teaching in my first grade classroom. I remember wanting to watch everything that was happening, but knew I couldn’t because my students were so young. So, I kept the TV turned most of the day so they couldn’t really see what all was happening. The hardest thing was trying to explain to them – without really explaining to them – what happened.” Michelle Yeager Turner

“Like so many others, I remember that day in crystal-clear detail, and after the initial shock subsided, my main emotion was a profound sadness, for the families of the victims of the attack, of course, but also for the many more deaths which I knew would follow in much senseless and unneeded revenge-justified violence. Unfortunately, 10 years later many outstanding young Americans and countless Iraqi and Afghani civilians continue to die in the violence fueled by the events of that day. On the 10-year anniversary of 9/11, we need to collectively embrace non-violent means of conflict resolution advocated by Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Jesus of Nazareth and other great thinkers. As the past 10 years have so clearly demonstrated, violent confrontation only generates more violent confrontation. As we are told in Matthew, ‘Blessed are the peace-makers: for they shall be called the children of God.’ ” Jim Graham

“I was teaching in Dallas, getting ready to start a class. A fellow teacher came in to whisper the news to me because I am from New York and my sister worked there. I spent the next several hours in the teacher conference room with phones, TVs, etc., desperately trying to get a hold of anyone. But none of the phones would work with the jammed cell towers. I absolutely thought my sister was gone. I was in a total haze just staring at the TVs hoping to see her run by or something. Then, at around 2 p.m., my cell phone rang and her number showed up. I ran out into the hallway in order to get better reception and classes were changing. I fell to my knees anyway and wept on the phone as she just repeated, ‘I’m OK, I’m OK, I am in New Jersey, I’m OK.’ It was one of the worst days but that moment was one I will never forget, my sister and I am extremely close. At that moment (when the first plane struck), she was walking to get to her apartment in Hoboken. Basically, she fled her building and stood in shock and horror watching people jump. She(and a group of others) took cover in another building and then they all decided to run. They ran right when the second plane hit, so she watched that. She ran through the debris and then for miles and miles. She ran uptown and then toward the river. She was put on a boat and taken to New Jersey. When she got off, the firemen lined them all up and hosed them down with water because they didn’t know what was in the debris and didn’t want them carrying it home or spreading it. She was in so much shock that when she called me, she cried about her new Coach purse getting drenched and how it was ruined. Then, she walked several miles home to her apartment in Hoboken. I am different because of that feeling of knowing the loss of my sister and the anger over that event that I generally don’t feel about other things. I am not an angry person and I am very rational, but I definitely have irrational fears and anger that stems from that day. Luckily, I didn’t actually lose my sister but that feeling is something that was so real and I pray it will never happen again. I feel for those who lost their lives and also those like my sister who live with the nightmares. They are real and she does have them.” Stephanie White

“I was stranded in the Philippines in room 911 of the Manila Hotel.” William L. Coale

“I flew into Newark airport that morning from Louisville and watched the planes hit and the towers fall in front of me from the window of the airport across the bay. They evacuated the airport, and we had to walk down Highway 1 until an airport shuttle picked us up. Looooooong days of travel, trains, Greyhound, sadness, but at least I wasn’t on a different plane.” Brigid Kaelin

“I had just processed out of the Army less than a week before and had stopped by my grandmother’s house to visit as the first aircraft struck. I remember getting a phone call from first sergeant reminding me that I’m eligible for recall and that everyone is depending on us. I’d never really dealt with any hostile action, so I was petrified.” Sam Alvey

“I was driving to work in Frankfort when the first reports starting coming over the radio. By the time I got to the office, everyone was in the conference room watching a TV. It was, of course, horrifying. I wish we could all remember we are Americans first like we did after 9/11. Instead of ‘liberal’ or ‘conservative,’ Democrat or Republican, we were all Americans, and we were better for it.” Linda Roberts Horsman

“I just remember thinking over and over that it was Biblical in proportion.” Bonnie Jansen Hackbarth

“I served in the Armed Forces in 1978, however I have not really been very patriotic about this country, considering the plight of many African Americans, at least until 9/11. Until that day, my thoughts were similar to those of a fellow American who said, ‘I love America but America does not love me.’ However, this tragic event shook my conscience and reinvested my concerns and love for this country and the citizens of these United States. When I saw the suffering and the deaths, it frightened and discouraged me, but then I saw the outpouring of love for one another. I saw people who on that day no longer saw color but another human being. I saw people who didn’t know one another pulling together in love to assist each other, to help others, to show real concern for their fellow people, giving their lives to help and save people they did not know. In tragedy, I saw something beautiful metamorphosize itself. I saw a rise of real love. I do not remember the pain of that day. I do not remember the destruction that happen, even though it will be foeever embedded in history. All I remember about 9/11 is the rising of true love and respect for each other. My prayers go out to the many Americans who lost their lives that day and I continue to pray for each family, but all I remember is love on that day.” Alonzo Malone Jr.

“The only thing I wanted to do was to be with all my loved ones.” Lawanna “Lulu” Frey

“I was at the doctor’s office with my then 3-month-old daughter when that happened and it was the talk of the whole office. There were lots of people crying and trying to call some loved ones there. I will never forget that day. I hope that our country has matured and learned from this horrific incident.” Stacie Jo Sanders

“After watching the events of the day unfold on the TV all afternoon on September 11, 2001, I tried to answer questions that my little boy Taylor (11) was asking. I had always instilled patriotism in him, and my wife and I would get a kick out of his love for history, especially military history. My 11-year-old told us that evening that he wanted to do something about it. He said, ‘I’m gonna be a Marine when I grow up.’ On July 1, 2010, Lance Corporal Taylor Mauney USMC encountered an improvised explosive device (IED), while patrolling in the Helmand Province of Southern Afghanistan. His captain, Capt. Durrand Tanner, and Gunny Sgt. Paul Stanner were in a vehicle driven by my son – my lil’ 11-year-old boy who made good on his promise to ‘do something about it.’ Each lost a leg and suffered other extensive injuries. My son, Taylor, barely had a scratch but suffered a concussion. He made little fanfare of his minor head injury, in light of his captain’s and his gunny’s injuries. Taylor had been the driver for Capt. Tanner for several months and had grown close – as close gets over there – while driving him. My son was set to re-deploy to the same region on Dec. 5 of this year when we received the wonderful news that he had been accepted to attend school this fall at the Naval Academy Prep School in Rhode Island and then to the Naval Academy in (Maryland) next year. We are currently waiting for the results of his application for his Purple Heart for his concussion, which, again, he is down playing. How am I different? That is how I am different: Praying everyday for his safety. Getting the news of the IED. Watching Taylor and his fellow Marines … come walking into that gym at Camp Lejeune the night that they returned from Afghanistan. It had the same feeling as watching his birth. I am different due to the events of September 11, 2001. I am different. This family is different. This country is different.” Bob Mauney

“I was at the University of Louisville in the Student Activity Center going up the escalator when I saw planes flying into buildings (on TV). I thought, ‘Wow! That looks like an awesome movie. Then I realized it was real.” Michael Helm

“I was stationed in Norfolk, Va., on the the navy base there. I don’t think I have ever seen a military base so quiet in my life. I think that was the scariest moment of my life.” Jessica Glasscock

“(I was) on my way to Jasper, Ind., for a meeting with Kimball International. When I got there, the people were all around a TV. I heard what had happened on the radio but did not realize the impact on the U.S. until I saw the tears even from men standing around the TV. There are so many things that have changed since then. Actually I think everything has changed.” Debbie Marr

“I was a junior in college, (and) as a meteorology major, I vividly remember no ‘contrails’ or airplane jet exhaust in the sky as they shut down air traffic.” Ben Pine

“(I had a) very memorable 9/11 experience. We had flown to Key West for a law firm deep sea fishing trip. Flying in, the airline lost all our luggage. We had to go out and buy new clothes (and everything else) for the week. The next day someone broke into the rental house and stole thousands in cash, watches and jewelry. The morning after that, 9/11 occurred and all air traffic was grounded. We were all in shock and glued to the TV for hours on end. As horrific as it all was, we all thought Key West was as good a place as any to be stuck and tried to make the best of it. Well, then Hurricane Erin developed. At that point, we decided to drive home in our rental cars – a 24-hour drive in tropical-storm force wind and rain nearly all the way home. It was one hell of a week.” John H. Harralson, III

“I was in Pittsburgh, Penn., the morning the Twin Towers fell. I had flown in the night before to work an equestrian event for Jaguar Cars. My sister had reported to her new post at The Pentagon just two weeks prior for the US Air Force. I recall exiting the shower and walking to the bedroom to watch a little news while I dried my hair. The ‘Today Show’ was my morning staple; I’ve had a crush on Matt Lauer as long as I can remember. My crush looked quite serious as they moved to live camera shots in Midtown Manhattan. One tower was already in flames and a plane was headed for the other. I watched as it flew into the Tower. Words like ‘terrorism’ and ‘anti-American’ jumped from the crawl at the bottom of the screen. Disbelief overcame me. I couldn’t breathe. This didn’t happen here; not in my country. And I fell to my knees by the bed as I watched The Towers collapse. They cut to a shot of the Pentagon. Fear replaced disbelief as I watched the madness at our nation’s capitol. I knew my sister would already be at her desk in her new post. I scrambled for my cell, but phone lines were simply unavailable. I couldn’t reach my sister or my mother in Bardstown to see if she’d heard anything and to let her know that I was alright. Panic had set in. Hatred of the worst kind had been unleashed on our country that day and my only desire was to see a familiar face. I rented a car (one of the last two remaining) and drove twelve hours to get home and embrace my mother. On the drive home, I cried as I saw American flags on overpasses and on fences, parents helping small children hang signs of ‘God Bless the USA’ and ‘United We Stand,’ and I felt pride, love, and hope for my country. But, mostly pride. I was okay. My sister was okay. But our country suffered a blow that day that changed they way we travel, the way we run our country, and the way we interact with other cultures on a daily basis. Many lives were senselessly lost and the quality of more lives drastically altered since then. But like a Phoenix from the ashes, we continue to rise.” Kristie Hicks

“I had just become a stay-at-home mom a few months before and had the TV on. My husband was already at work. As soon as I turned on the TV there was the news that a plane had run into the World Trade Center, but they didn’t know what caused it yet. As I watched the screen, while holding my baby, I saw a plane come onto the screen and I witnessed the second plane hitting the other tower – live! That is when everyone knew it wasn’t an air controller or pilot mistake. We were under attack. I tried calling my husband and couldn’t get through to him. I was scared as I had just started my family. Not being able to talk to my husband freaked me out even more. I will never forget that morning and seeing that plane run into the tower. It’s burned in my brain.” Margi Pilon Neff

“I was working at a small general aviation airport. The first plane struck just as I was getting to work, and by the time I could log onto the Internet – no TV in the hangar – AOL was crashing from so much traffic. We finally got a TV up there in time to watch the towers collapse and find out the fate of the other two planes. By the end of the day they’d grounded all general aviation. That was the beginning of the end for my job. General aviation was grounded long enough to financially damage the company I was working for and just a couple weeks later they began bouncing their payroll checks to me. They never recovered. I had never gotten into politics or current affairs before that day. I decided I didn’t have a right to an opinion if I didn’t educate myself on it. I remain that way to this day. I, too, also struggled with what to tell my son. He was three at the time. Not old enough to understand what was going on, but old enough to ask me why I was crying that whole night when I couldn’t pull myself away from CNN and Fox News. How do you explain blind hatred to a 3-year-old? I remember the sheer silence the next day. No matter where I went, no one was talking. They would go out of their way to say hello and then … nothing. No idle chit-chat. Then, on the third anniversary of 9/11, my twin daughters were born. For us, that changed the day forever. While still a day to remember, it’s more a day of celebration for us. A celebration of life. I think that’s what everyone who lost their lives that day, and every day since, would want. The terrorists took their lives that day. We cannot allow them to take ours, too.” Tammy Horner McKemie

“I was at work and was told by a co-worker that an airplane just hit the World Trade Center. I was in disbelief and went to a TV. Then I saw the second plane hit the other building. I was surprised at seeing many other co-workers that had gathered to watch the TV, too. I was confused and scared that more attacks might be coming. As soon as possible, I withdrew a fairly large amount from my bank in case banking was interrupted and daily life was going to be different. I knew this was a significant event and wanted to be prepared for what may come. Charlotte Cunningham

“I was working at Borders and I remember the local paper delivering to us the special edition detailing the attacks. This was before Internet was widespread, and the community was flooding into the store to buy the paper and compare what they had heard.” Jesse Hendrix-Inman

“I was getting ready to head to the office and was in my usual morning routine. As I turned on the television, I thought I was watching a movie. It didn’t look real. Then I realized that my brother was supposed to travel to the Pentagon, and I wasn’t sure where he was. I tried to call him, but there was no answer on his cell or his office line. I called my mom to see if she had heard from him and she said he was traveling that day. Then I panicked because they announced that the Pentagon had been hit. I can’t even begin to describe the feeling I had not knowing where my big brother was. My husband travels three to four days a week and is in the major cities most of the time. I was blessed that morning and he was still at home as his flight was scheduled for later that day. He was unable to travel for over a week and I didn’t mind at all. We finally heard from my brother about six hours later. They were on lockdown at Naval Ordinance, and he simply couldn’t call us to tell us that he was fine and they wouldn’t even let them take off. When my mother finally called to tell me this, I couldn’t stop crying. I was so grateful. He could have been right in the middle of the damage at the Pentagon. I don’t think our airports are any safer than they were before. I think TSA has simply made it more difficult for everyday business people to travel. I’m not sure what the answer is, but the airport delays have cost unmeasurable amounts of money and time to so many of us. There has to be more prescreening that can be done for normal business people to get through security faster.” Jamie Johnson Lott

“I was in my office watching events unfold on TV. Watched the second plane hit the second tower and at that time knew we were being attacked. I knew immediately that the way we lived would be changed forever. I remember the solidarity our nation experienced during the following weeks. I hoped that would continue, but unfortunately that has faded. Being in the aviation business, this had a profound effect on my livelihood as well as my son who had been just hired as an airline pilot the year before. One year later, one aircraft from each of the fifty states organized a flight down the Hudson River carrying aboard their respective state flags past Ground Zero and the Statue of Liberty. I was honored to have represented Kentucky in this procession of flight. This was done to honor the victims and heroes of what happened a year earlier. My grandmother passed away on Sept. 10, 2001, the day before. I can’t help but to wonder if God chose to take her out of this world just in the nick of time.” Steve Koch

“I was about three years into my recovery. I was working at Chi Chi’s and was not very grateful. … I am (now) different in ways that I never dreamed of. I remember that I started to watch the way I treated people. It made me realize that I had so much to be grateful for, things that I took for granted. I will never forget I called everyone I knew to tell them how much they meant to be and I committed to be a better person that day. I have been in a twelve-step program for thirteen years and that day changed me forever. I am overwhelmed with God’s grace. Sept.11, 2001, changed the world. I am so grateful for his grace. … There is pain in change, but that day changed the world. Kim Moore

“It was my senior year of high school. I had just gotten to school and my friend stopped me in the hall and told me that a plane had just hit the Pentagon. I told him to shut up, that’s the most secure building in the country. We proceeded to the library where the TV was on. I was in shock with what I was watching.” David Ayres

“My son-in-law was just two blocks from the towers and saw the second plane hit. He stayed two weeks to help out.” Betty Lou Linton

“I lived in Chicago working for CBS Television. We thought the Sears Tower was next. It was a very scary time.” David Grantz

“Scary day. I can’t believe how they ever cleaned up the ginormous mess. Life goes on now, but we will never be the same. I will never forget how much of life stopped for months after the attack. It took a lot of time for America to find its joy again, but we won’t forget the loss of life that day. RIP.” Cheryl Jaggers

“Bill Meyer walked down Fifth Avenue (in NYC) after going to the gym and saw the plane hit. We were able to talk right away before phones shut down. It was very sad. We worried about more problems but went up (to New York) at Christmas and we celebrated because we didn’t want to let them take that away. Most New Yorkers tried to go on as best they could. Freedom rising out of the ashes of 9/11 makes us fight more for freedom. What a great tribute to all who keep our country safe.” Mary Lou Meyer

Contact Angie at 502.551.2698 or angie@voice-tribune.com.

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About the Author (Author Profile)

Angie Fenton
Angie Fenton is Managing Editor of The Voice-Tribune, a Blue Equity company. She is also an entertainment correspondent for WHAS11′s new morning show, “Great Day Live!”, which debuted August 22 on Louisville’s ABC affiliate. Additionally, Angie is an entertainment correspondent for the Saturday Morning Show with Ron ‘n’ Mel Fisher on 84WHAS (840 AM) and has served in the same capacity for Churchill Downs, the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks; Breeders’ Cup; and Circuit of the Americas during the Formula 1 U.S. Grand Prix in November 2012. Angie also serves as an emcee, host, voiceover professional and on-camera commercial talent.

Angie has a bachelor’s and master’s in English from Central Michigan University and began her career as an adjunct professor at her alma mater. She is the youngest of five — four of whom were adopted, including Angie, and none of whom are biologically related. She is also a Michigan native who moved to Kentucky in June 2002. Angie is owned by two dogs — Herbie and Yoda — and feels lucky to have loved and been loved by many more, including Pooch, Jessie, Onyx, Jack and Big Bud, who took his last breath on Christmas Day 2012.

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  1. John Grohmann says:

    I had just gotten on I-71 to drive from Louisville to Covington for a court appearance when local radio switched to national news. For the next 90 minutes I listened to the unfolding tragedy. I remember drivers on the highway looking at me as they passed, gesturing as if to ask if I was getting the news. I pulled into a rest stop somewhere around Florence, and a group of truckers, motorists, etc., had gathered…I suspect because we were all in shock, and wanted to have some sort of exchange about the events. I proceeded to Covington, ran to my appointment, and found my assigned judge sitting at a conference table looking over some documents. I told him what had happened, and asked if he wanted to go with me to find a television. “No”, he replied, “I imagine it will be on the news tonight”, and then he returned to his paperwork. I’m still amazed by that.