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A Flag At Half-Mast: A Personal Account of the Attack on America

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11 September 2001 – Tuesday

5:46 a.m. Pacific Standard Time

Healdsburg, California

An indelible mark branded on our souls today a day that would be like no other, a day of fear and uncertainty, a day a war was born. The impact felt throughout the entire world, destroyed my sense of safety; an attack on our homeland was unthinkable but was unfolded right before my eyes. As dawn slowly crawled by darkness I woke to the routine of another day, and staggered into the kitchen still half asleep my body wrapped in an old green terrycloth bathrobe sizes too large, and turned on the television to see if the world was still there like I do every morning. As I grabbed my diet lemon yogurt from the refrigerator, I sat down on the wooden kitchen chair and tucked my feet around the worn rungs to get them off the cold tile floor waiting for the old Wedgwood stove oven to begin to warm the room. I watched San Francisco’s Channel 7 news, which was broadcasting a picture of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City. There was a live shot and an announcement that a small plane had struck one of the towers at 8:46 EST. That was interesting news and jolted me to the reality of the day. It made sense to me because the Towers were so tall. I had not long ago bought a book on the Towers while browsing around in Costco because I thought they were indeed an engineering marvel. I had read that Tower One was 1709 feet including its antenna, and Tower Two was 1362 feet. The news media blasted out their opinions and more facts that not too many of us knew or really at that time even cared about. I rushed through the house to wake up my husband, Lou, as I heard the announcers tell the television audience that in 1945 an Army Air Force B-25 crashed into the 80th floor of the Empire State Building. It had to be a similar accident. What else could it be? What had really happened was unconscionable. I was barely awake and these facts and thoughts of terrorism were cascading through my brain running stress throughout my entire system. For a fleeting moment I thought I might be dreaming and would wake up and everything would be okay. I was confused and worried. I had not experienced WWII and didn’t know the fear people lived through at that time in our history. But, an attack on America was unthinkable. Yet, here it was no warnings, no nothing. This couldn’t be happening!

The real story quickly unfolded. Terrorists had used American Airlines Flight 11 Boeing 767 non-stop from Boston to Los Angeles as a missile. It turned south from Albany, New York and headed to lower Manhattan and at 8:45 a.m. crashed into the north tower causing an enormous fire and explosion on impact. At 9:03 a.m. EST, United Airlines Flight 175 slammed into the south tower dissolving any thoughts that the public was harboring of it being an accident. The astonished onlookers were mesmerized as they witnessed many people leap from the inferno to their deaths. No one above the impact had a chance of survival. They made the decision to jump rather than face the alternative, which was the intensity of the fire. I cannot imagine the fear. Later photographs showed people jumping, several couples holding hands, and it made me wonder what kind of hell it was up there to force them to make the choice to leap to their deaths. Unbeknown to the jumpers their bodies falling like bombs killed people below. Video cameras were rolling as some of the residents of the neighborhood filmed the incident. The towers shook and moaned for over an hour but no one was prepared for what was about to happen. At 10:05 a.m. EST, the south tower imploded, and twenty-four minutes later the north tower collapsed, killing thousands, and sending a tsunami of ash, asbestos, cement, plastics, and debris chasing terrified people through the streets of lower Manhattan. Jet fuel poured over and throughout the buildings, wreaking havoc, and stimulating fires, and burning individuals on the ground. The collapse killed 343 members of the New York City Fire Department, and twenty-three police officers who were involved in the courageous rescue attempt. Thousands of innocent lives, civilians, paramedics, and EMT’s were lost in and around the towers. The contact was so violent it melted the steel structure of the buildings. Only the skeletal remains of the World Trade Center stood, the giant symbol of America demolished and standing in what looked like a nuclear winter. I had woken up to America’s worst nightmare. The situation continued to deteriorate with the news that United Flight 77, another Boeing 757 enroute from Washington D.C., with 58 passengers and six crew members crashed into the Pentagon killing 200 people. The nation reeled in shock, thousands died and evacuations had begun.