Decade later, memories still fresh

Published 2:11 am Saturday, September 10, 2011

The events that unfolded on Sept. 11, 2001, were quick to fill Americans with a multitude of emotions – anger, shock, grief and ultimately, pride. And this week, as the nation prepares to mark the 10-year anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Covington County residents remember where they were when they got the news.

Red Level’s Janice Castleberry and husband, Johnny, took a trip to New York City less than four months before the Trade Centers fell. Even to this day, she can’t talk about the trip and the Sept. 11 attacks without being overcome with emotion.

“I remember that day well,” she said. “I was on my way to Pensacola (Fla.) with a friend when it came on the radio. We listened all the way there, and when we got to where we were going, everyone was glued to the television. Then, I realized what we heard was true.

“I almost passed out, knowing we had been there in July,” she said. “It just did something to me. We took pictures when we were there. One showed two men outside the second tower, who looked like they worked there, and it makes you wonder – did they make it out alive?

“It makes you realize how fortunate we are to live where we live, but also to know that we’re not above attack,” she said. “You never know one day to the next what’s going to happen. That’s why we have to be ready.”

Frankie Lancaster of Andalusia said she was at home working at her desk when the phone rang with the news.

“It was one of my clients, and I could tell she was excited and rushing with her words – and she was a fairly calm person as a rule, verbally,” Lancaster said. “At any rate, she continued with her call asking ‘Frankie, are you watching TV?’ ‘No,’ I said.

“She said ‘Well turn it on. A plane has hit one of the Twin Towers.”

Lancaster said she was taken aback and worked to calm her client on the other end of the phone.

“I tried to make sense of what I was hearing, and as I turned on my TV and saw an explosion and heard screams and hysterical sounds,” she said. “ Shirley, my client, said ‘They are re-playing the crash,’ but as I continued to watch, I thought, ‘No, this is a second hit.”

In unison, both women said, “Oh my God.”

“Then I said, ‘We have been hit twice, what in the hell is happening?’ she said. “I have to be very candid, though morbid, at this point. I thought and wondered seriously if the end of the world was about to commence.

“We continued to hang on with each other with the phone,” she said. “Somehow it helped to know you were not alone at this time. We were speechless, horrified, in disbelief, scared, confused, wondering if we or who would be next, and knowing all of this revolved around America.

“We decided to hang up and try to get a grip on what else was happening; I wondered where my family was; were they OK,” she said. “Things that go through your mind when times are out of control.”

Lancaster said it wasn’t long before the news told of the other strikes.

“And then the plane that went down with the Americans on it – the men and women that had fought the good fight and made the decision that probably changed some of the story,” she said.