9/11: A Flashback to Reality

Area Residents Reflect on How Terrorism Affects Their Lives

For the seventh anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, people are reflecting on where they were, when they found out, what they were doing and how they felt upon hearing the news – especially those who lost loved ones.

Some, including the presidential candidates, will also participate in observances at the site of the attacks: the Pentagon in Arlington, Va., and at the World Trade Center in New York City. Three thousand flags will wave across the Healing Field during the dedication of the Pentagon Memorial at 7 p.m. today. Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. John McCain will join New York officials at a ceremony at ground zero in lower Manhattan.

On Sept. 11, 2001, hijackers flew two airplanes into the trade center, killing everyone on board and many who worked in the twin towers, which collapsed within two hours. A third plane crashed into the Pentagon; and a fourth, heading for Washington, D.C., crash-landed in Shanksville, Pa., in Somerset County.

About 3,000 people died in the attacks. Steve, an employee at the Environmental Protection Agency, lost his wife at the Pentagon. “It’s really hard for me to speak about that,” said the 65-year-old Washingtonian, who declined to give his last name. “I haven’t gotten over it yet. I don’t understand why or how terrorists can kill innocent people. We haven’t done anything to deserve that.”

The attacks have also affected his life in other ways. “I still don’t feel safe,” he said. “When I take the Metro bus around town, I sometimes wonder if a suicide bomber is on the bus. I hate that feeling.”

In addition, he noted that “the economy is no longer stable, we are at war and gasoline prices have increased.” However, he praised President Bush for his response. “I admire Bush because of how quickly he acted. He wasn’t chicken. He has brought war, and now terrorism is nearly over.”

Leander Blount of Brooklyn, New York, also had family members in harm’s way, but they survived. He was an eyewitness to the attack on the World Trade Center.

“Where my school was, I saw the second plane hit and the towers collapse,” said Blount, now a sophomore majoring in finance at Howard University. Blount recalls that everyone was shocked and described the incident as “unreal.”

“They wouldn’t let us leave school.”

One of his uncles worked at the trade center and escaped by crawling out. Blount said that his mother, who also worked in the area, had to walk home from Manhattan, crossing the Brooklyn Bridge, which stretches over a mile. Black smoke covered New York for days, he said.

Here are reflections from others on the terrorist attacks:

Dr. Barbara Griffin Associate Dean of the Humanities in the College of Arts and Sciences at Howard University

Q: How did you feel after learning about the 9/11 attacks? A: I didn’t have time to feel anything. I had to walk around Locke Hall to inform professors and students that they needed to pack up and leave the D.C. area. This campus is so close the White House, anything could have happened.

Q: How did the attacks affect your daily life? A: I experienced anxiety I never felt before, but it wasn’t anything I couldn’t control.

Q: Do you think the government has worked harder to defend citizens? A: No, and that’s a reality check to citizens who lived in a cocoon of security. The government doesn’t keep the citizens informed; they aren’t forthcoming. The world was sympathetic to the loss of lives of those in the World Trade Center and the other areas affected, but the United States went out of its way to squander that empathy.

Ariel Heard Howard University sophomore broadcast journalism major from Chesapeake, Va.

How did 9/11 affect your life? We thought we were next to get targeted because we have the largest naval base. It brought a scare to Virginia.

Richard Hullum A 17-year-old freshman from San Bernadino, Calif., majoring in finance at Howard University

Q: How did you feel after learning about the 9/11 attacks? A: I basically thought it was a very hyped movie. There were only images of people running out of the buildings, fanning the debris. I was only in the sixth grade, so I didn’t understand what was going on.

Q: Do you think the government has worked harder to defend citizens? A: I feel as though the government knew something was going to happen, and they didn’t take the right course of action. The national government has made security tighter, but they still have work to do.

Traven Hurst 18-year-old resident of Detroit

Q: When you think about 9/11 now, what do you think of it as? A: I think of it as a conspiracy, simply because it doesn’t make sense. How can four people hijack a plane with only box cutters?

Samantha Turner Queens, New York

Q: How your life affected by 9/11? I was in Queens, and it happened in Manhattan. School that day was cancelled. My friends lost family members, which was hard. To this day, flying’s not the same. There was a lot of tension in New York for a while because of the trauma of it all; people were still traumatized from it. There was smoke in the air for days. Even when I go down there now, it’s still kind of eerie. I get a weird feeling.

Q: Do you think your life would have been any different today if it never happened? At first, New Yorkers were deeply affected; everybody was really sad. Tourism kinda stopped for a while. As a city, though, we came together and said we can’t just sit here and dwell; we have to move on with our lives. We can’t just not ride the train, or not fly, or not go to Manhattan because of the fear that we might be terrorized.

Q: Do you think that the New York government handled the situation well? I honestly do. People really came together that didn’t have to. Fire departments all the way from Staten Island and different boroughs and even different states came and rallied together to help people. Hospitals took people in all day and all night all over the city. I feel like New York as a whole just came together, including Giuliani. He did his best. Most New Yorkers don’t like Giuliani, but I will say as far as 9/11 went, he did what he had to do.

Casha Thomas Detroit sophomore majoring in Spanish at Howard University

What are your thoughts on what happened? 9/11 was the beginning of everything we’re in now-especially with the security in the airports. It blows my mind that we didn’t have this security before.

Chaun Lewis A Brooklyn sophomore majoring in biology

Where were you the day of 9/11? A: I was in seventh grade in my English class. They kept announcing on the loud speaker that so and so’s parents were there to pick them up. I was trying to figure out why everyone’s parents were coming to get their kids.

Q: What do you realize looking back on 9/11? A: I realized how media affects your perception because right after, every time I would see and Arab or Muslim on the train I was convinced that they were terrorists, which was wrong. This is why we need a president that is going to be honest and is not going put us in harm’s way by not telling us the truth.

Justine Carter 19-year-old student and resident of Maplewood, N.J.

Q: When you think about 9/11 today, what do you think about? A: Definitely still shocked, I’d say. The twin towers were a landmark. You look at the skyline now, and it’s never going to be the same.

Emilie Reid 48-year-old resident of Atlanta

Q: Can you recall where you were when 9/11 occurred? A: I was at work at the CDC (Center for Disease Control). I remember wanting to get home to my kids. At the time it was just me and my kids. I felt scared and alone. I thought that maybe the CDC would get bombed.

Q: Do you think that those were the last attacks of their kind? A: Different countries experience different things, but I hope that this is the last experience like this for our country.

Q: When you think back on 9/11 now, what do you think of? A: I see that it was a crisis that led to more unity and kindness at the time. Even though it was an awful, tragic time, I saw people step up and take charge and help other people.

Additional reporting by Jada F. Smith, Natalege Whaley and Candace Smith.