Where were you when the Towers fell?

Published 11:27 pm Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Seven years ago today, America’s world was forever changed when two planes, carrying terrorists and innocent passengers, crashed not only into the World Trade Center, but also the Pentagon and a vacant field.

It is a day that will forever mark a turning point in the way communities, cities, and government operate.

It is also a day that made several local residents sit up and take notice of the world around them and the implications that day that would be felt forever more.

For Andalusia Police Chief Wilbur Williams, he said he felt in his mind, the day was equivocal to every other important date in our nation’s history.

“To me, it’s on the same level as Pearl Harbor or any other day like that in our history,” he said. “The one thing that day has taught me is that people always talk about heroes. The policemen and firefighters that died that day were doing their jobs and getting paid to do it.

“To me the real heroes of the day are the people like Todd Beamer on (United) Flight 93 – now that’s a hero.”

Beamer was one of 40 people who lost their lives on Flight 93 when four hijackers took control of the U.S. domestic passenger flight from Newark International Airport en route to San Francisco. After learning about the events of Sept. 11 and the attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center, the passengers decided to mount an assault and take control of the plane.

Andalusia fire fighter Tim Grimes said he can remember watching live feed from the World Trade Center site and hearing a sound that was hauntingly familiar.

“The news alerts were coming across the television showing people walking around the rubble,” Grimes said. “You could hear this chirping noise in the background. What people didn’t realize is that it was the alarms from all the firefighters who had responded to the site.”

Grimes explained that firefighters wear a safety device that activates if the person remains still for 20 seconds.

“It’s a loud shrill beep,” he said. “I can remember hearing it and it sounding like there were hundreds of them going off. It was a sobering moment. In the days after, I can remember, even us as far away as we were from it, people call us heroes. I didn’t do a thing other than show up here and do my job, but people still said thanks.”

Nearly 3,000 people lost their lives on that day, and more than 6,200 were injured. Of those, 411 were emergency workers, 341 fire fighters, two paramedics, eight EMTs and 23 police officers.

Local pharmacy technician Misty Adkinson said she was attending high school in Washington state at the time.

“I was just a freshman, but I can remember being scared at the atmosphere at the school,” she said. “I was there before everyone else and it came across the radio. We had an assembly at school and they brought grief counselors in.”

County Commission Chairman Greg White said he was working in his office — like any other day of the week.

“I was in my accounting office when the events of 9/11 unfolded,” he said. “My first awareness was when (his wife) Jan called and mentioned that TV news was reporting that a small plane had evidently hit the World Trade Center. A few minutes later, she called to say that another plane had now hit the building, and later the Pentagon.

“I don’t have a TV, so I didn’t see the impact of the attacks until the end of the day.”

White said it was quickly obvious that the event was not happenstance.

“The funeral of a good friend — Gordon Jones — was held that morning,” he said. “Mayor Earl Johnson and I met outside the church as we gathered for the funeral, and agreed we should call for a community prayer meeting on the square late that afternoon.”

White said he and Johnson divided responsibilities for organizing the event.

“We had a great crowd gather to participate in the event,” he said. “As we became more aware in the days ahead of what had happened, I was grateful that we had responded locally like we did.”

White said he now has a greater awareness of the enemies of America, and their threat to our way of life.

“Consequently, I’m more committed than ever to protecting the freedoms we enjoy — and fully support the efforts of our country in the War on Terror,” he said. “I see many parallels between today and the late 1930s, and don’t want us to make the same mistakes that Europe did in response to the Nazi threat.”

Currently, there are 146,000 U.S. service members in Iraq alone who have taken the challenge to protect our everyday way of life.

All American flags at government offices will be lowered to half-mast today to honor those who lost their lives seven years ago.