Begin forwarded message:
Area citizens recall the attack on America
By Erin Crowell
I was 17 years old in my high school drama class, blindfolded and
awkwardly navigating the auditorium by voice of a classmate. It was one of
many activities created by our teacher meant to exercise communication,
reliance and the hope our partner wouldnt lead us into a chair or brick
Blind trust, I like to call it today.
A cafeteria worker came into the auditorium, whispered to our teacher who
then quietly instructed us to go back to the classroom without explanation
In the hallway, the same image flashed in intervals with each passing of a
classroom, the eyes of students and staff glued to the televisions, seeing
the same tower capped in billowing smoke against a brilliantly blue sky.
I dont need to tell you more because you know what happened afterward.
You saw it, too; and if you didnt, you saw it later that day or week. You
shared your learning of that event with others who did the same where
you were, who you were with, how you felt.
Despite the miles between Northern Michigan and New York City,
Shanksville, Pennsylvania and Arlington, Virginia, the events of September
11, 2001 remain engrained in our memories.
The Express interviewed a handful of community members who shared their
reflections on that day and what it means to them now.
PILOT OF 24-YEARS EXPERIENCE
As a resident of Traverse City since 2002, Chris Anderson was at his home
in Pittsburgh, PA (just 81 miles from where United 93 crashed into a
field) during the time of the attacks. As a pilot for World Airways,
Anderson was between trips flying U.S. troops in and out of Bosnia.
Northern Express: How did you see those days events unfold?
Anderson: I was watching an interview on CNBC when the host interrupted
the guest showing a distant view of the WTC on fire The second plane flew
into the south tower and then (I thought) it was certainly a terrorist
attack; and for some reason I also had a feeling it wasnt over... within
30 minutes there was news of the other aircraft.
About an hour later the media reported that United 93 was not
communicating with air traffic control and was flying the wrong direction.
It turned toward Washington DC near Cleveland, Ohio. I knew the line
between the two points would be very near Pittsburgh, and in fact it was.
The local news station in Pittsburgh was the first in the country to
report a crash in the mountains near Shanksville, PA.
I finally couldnt take the imagery on TV any more. I walked out into my
yard and heard F16 fighters flying all around the area... in wide circles.
It was truly a disturbing sight.
NE: What effects did you feel from that day?
Anderson: Being that I fly military troops around the world for a living I
knew that I was going to be very busy for a long time to come.
My company, World Airways, committed all its aircraft to flying troops
350 troops at a time. In just a few weeks our operation was geared up to
meet the demand. Other airlines did the same.
The troops I flew initially were very motivated and excited and were
cheering on takeoff and landing; but as the years rolled on, the cheering
has stopped completely. They are now very stressed after multiple
deployments and we have distressed/panic attack problems quite often.
DEREK BAILEY, TRIBAL CHAIRMAN
GRAND TRAVERSE BAND OF OTTAWA AND CHIPPEWA INDIANS
September 11 was a blow to the whole world, especially to the Sovereign
Nations of our home soil.
Northern Express: How did those events unfold for you?
Bailey: At the time, I was working at the Behavioral Health Department
with the Grand Traverse Band. We were in a room interviewing an elder with
the tribea Vietnam veteranwhen Jack Chambers, our medicine man, broke
into the office and said, Were under attack; and boy, we stopped right
there, turned on the television and sat there watching the events unfold.
NE: What were your initial thoughts?
Bailey: Immediately I thought about the fact that this was an attack on
the American people on our soil. We were just standing there speechless
thinking, is this happening? It was a moment that was collectively shared
in that room and throughout America; and everyone was drawn to that
NE: How did that moment change for the tribe?
Bailey: We heightened the safety training of our tribal
citizenship simulated exercise in case a terrorist or chemical attack was
to happen. At one point our tribe did receive a bomb threat on tribal
NE: Would you say this event has made us more wary?
Bailey: Id say yes. You have to. A lot of that is decided by our
environment, who makes it up and what surrounds us. Im more aware of who
is in my vicinity, especially as a traveler; and 9/11 brought that to the
NE: What did that day mean to you, personally?
Bailey: It was interviewing a female Vietnam veteran at the time and had a
Marine Corps Vietnam veteran come in then watching the events unfold with
them. The Grand Traverse Band, the council and tribal citizens, we will
always support and recognize those who have served and those who continue
to make sacrifices for U.S. citizens and the rights we hold. To them, we
say, miigwetch, which means thank you.
CHIEF PATRICK PARKER & CAPTAIN TONY POSEY,
GRAND TRAVERSE METRO FIRE DEPARTMENT
Like most firefighters around the country, Grand Traverse Metro Fire
Department Chief Patrick Parker felt helpless while hundreds of
firefighters and rescue workers perished in the rubble of the World Trade
Center. With 17 years experience under his belt at GT Metro, Parker could
only watch as rescue efforts continued for weeks.
Meanwhile, 16-year-old Tony Posey was in his high school economics class
at Traverse City Central when the first plane hit the North Tower of the
World Trade Center. Little did either firefighter know at the time that
they would bring a piece of that tower back to Northern Michigan.
Northern Express: Tony, you were one of three firefighters who drove to
New York City to retrieve the 3,200 lb. piece of steel beam that will be
used as a permanent 9/11 memorial in Traverse City. How did you get that
Posey: Chief Parker started the process about a year and a half ago. I
told him if anything comes through, Id be interested in being a part of
it, whether that meant helping build a monument or picking up the piece.
I was fortunate enough to go out to New York City two years ago for a
class and was able to meet some of the firefighters that were there that
day. Once we found out we were getting a 3,200 lb. piece of steel I told
him I was interested in getting it and he gave me the go-ahead. It was
myself, Kyle Chutewho is a high school friendand Scott Allman.
NE: What was that experience like?
Posey: There were about 100 people who showed up at the (JFK Airport)
hangar who were picking up pieces of steel, which ranged from 100 pounds
to 100-foot-long beams. There was a motorcycle group of retired FDNY
firefighters. Seeing how emotional they were, we thought, We shouldnt be
here. We shouldnt be leaving New York with this. But just after that
same time, a member of the motorcycle group came up to us and said, We
dont want all this to just be sitting here. We want these pieces spread
out throughout the U.S. We want people to remember.
NE: Patrick, what was your reaction to that days events?
Parker: I wanted to help, but felt helpless. That happened to a lot of
people in our department. They showed up, ready for action and service if
they were needed; but we just stressed that our people needed to stay in
TC. The State of Police said the same thing to their people. Some did go
to Ground Zero, but only because it was by invite and it was a coordinated
event. There was just already so much help being offered from all over the
NE: What was the atmosphere like afterward in the firefighter community?
Parker: There was a lot of camaraderie and feelings that we are going to
stick together during this thing. There was no greater time in our
country, at least in recent years, where the public just thought the world
of EMS, police and firefighters. It was at the height of appreciation.
Unfortunately, its almost like there needs to be a disaster in order to
heighten that kind of awareness.
NE: When the North Tower piece came to Traverse City in April, what was
the welcoming ceremony for the memorial like?
Parker: There was a lot of introspective that day about what happened,
memories. At least for me it brought back the knowledge that our
country got kicked down temporarily but showed how resilient we are and
that we moved on forward and didnt let this moment slow us down.
JULIE NEPH, ENGINEER WITH THE MACKINAC BRIDGE AUTHORITY
It was another day in the office when Julie Neph, an engineer of 19 years
with the Mackinac Bridge Authority, learned about the attacks. While the
bridge connecting the Peninsulas remained open, 9/11 stepped up security.
NE: How did you find out?
Neph: I was walking to our maintenance building, which we call the shop,
and saw the small TV that a couple of guys were standing around. They
waved me over and said, Come take a look at this. It was a live news
feed of the North Tower with smoke coming out and then as we were
watching, a second plane suddenly hit.
NE: At that time, did you fear the Mackinac Bridge would be a target?
Neph: I guess subconsciously because we have these towers and its out in
the open; but being that were so far from New York and what was going on,
that kind of set me at ease.
NE: What was the engineer in you thinking when you saw the Twin Towers
Neph: While they were standing I was wondering how a building could
withstand such a hit; but at the same time, I wasnt expecting it to
collapse either. I figured once it was hit and still standing that they
would have been fine. Of course, I didnt realize at the time the fires
happening inside the buildings, which is what caused them to collapse.
NE: Did it change security for the bridge?
Neph: Well, we were already stepping up our security and had things in the
works to increase that security; but when the attacks happened, it truly
made us realize how necessary it was. We put new security measures in
place and are better prepared; but then again, you never know until
something so tragic happens.