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The News Editorial: 9/11: Something we can never forget

Twenty years ago Saturday, 2,977 innocent souls were killed in terror attacks on American soil — in New York City, Washington, D.C. and near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

I was a reporter for the Lovell Chronicle on that Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001. I arrived at work about 7 like usual. I turned our TV on for noise more than anything, but not to a news channel. I believe I was watching “Charmed” on TNT.

I received a call from a friend asking if I was watching TV, I said yes. She asked if I knew we were under attack. I asked what she meant and she said they were attacking us.

I quickly rose from my desk and switched channels to the Today Show to listen as they discussed how a plane had struck one of the Twin Towers. I remember watching as my boss came in and we discussed it and we discussed how the towers were built and then we heard them saying people were jumping from the buildings, not wanting to burn to death.

Then we watched in disbelief as one tower fell, knowing there were many people still in there including many first responders. If one tower could fall then the other surely would fall.

And in the midst of the coverage of the World Trade Center was discussion about other hijacked planes and one crashing into the Pentagon and another crash in Pennsylvania that they were initially uncertain whether it was one of the hijacked planes. In fact it was Flight 93, where the passengers took back the plane and made sure it did not crash into any buildings.

That day 2,977 innocent people died, along with 19 terrorists. Among the 2,977 were citizens from 78 countries, 343 firefighters and paramedics, 23 New York City police officers, 37 Port Authority police officers, 189 at the Pentagon and 44 in Pennsylvania.

Earlier this summer Mike St Clair called and wanted to know if I would be on a committee to organize a remembrance service for 9/11, 20 years later. He had spearheaded one in 2011. I did not hesitate.

I can not pinpoint why 9/11 is so important to me, why it is important for me to ensure that what happened that day is never forgotten. I did not lose anyone personally in the attacks. Perhaps as an American I took the attack personally, and still do.

The committee decided at the first meeting we did not want to call it an anniversary. An anniversary is something to celebrate. What happened on 9/11 should not be celebrated but should be remembered with somber attitude.

Why should it never be forgotten? Because 20 years later there are so many people who were too young to understand what happened, there are many who were never even born at the time. You’ll find stories from residents about what they remember that day and how they feel 20 years later, you’ll find a timeline and the historic words of President George W. Bush on the night of 9/11. Check out A1, A5-A7.

I also remember so many afterward saying they were willing to do whatever it took to be safe and I saw some of the freedoms we lost at the time through the Patriot Act and how scared and nervous I was and still am with that kind of thinking.

In participating on the committee and planning for our 20-year remembrance in this issue I asked the staff at the Northern Wyoming News to share their thoughts and perspective.

Seth Romsa: I was 4 years old and in the kitchen. That’s all I can remember.

Jane Elliott: I was living in Casper on 9/11. I had just dropped my daughter off at preschool when I turned the radio on in the car. At first I couldn’t figure out why every station had news on at the same time, until I listened to what the news actually was. I remember feeling disbelief and wondering if it was some kind of joke, as it reminded me of the Orson Wells “War of Worlds” broadcast. I went back home, turned on the TV news and watched as the towers fell. I felt so sad and panicked for all of those people who were trapped in that horrible wreckage. I watched the news constantly for days hoping they would continue to find people alive.  The only bright spot during that terrible time was watching our country come together in unity even if it was a unity of grief.

Twenty years later I think of how this is just another page in the history books now for the younger generations. Both of my kids were toddlers when it happened and have no real recollection of it. To me however, rewatching video clips of 9/11 still gives me that same feeling of horror as I had 20 years ago.

Alex Kuhn: I was in the eighth grade and we were living in Greybull, and it was in history class when Mr. Jensen told us that two planes hit the World Trade Center. Initially, I was thinking two puddle-jumpers hit the towers and how weird that was. But as we got more info – the planes were commercial airliners, it was a terrorist attack, the Pentagon was hit too  - the gravity of the situation set in. I wasn’t really worried for myself or family in Greybull but more worried about my family members and friends living in Las Vegas and Southern California.

One light moment from that day happened later that night. Myself, my mom, dad and sister were eating dinner talking about the attacks. We got to the topic of our family in friends in Vegas and Southern California when my mom said she was seriously thinking about pulling me and my sister out of school for the day. We all just looked at her confusingly. My sister broke the silence, “Why? We live in Wyoming.” We all started laughing, my mother too, and to this day we still joke with her about it.

There are many thoughts 20 years later, but I’d say the one that’s stuck with me most is frustration. Frustration over how politicians from both parties will praise, wax-poetic and use the first responders from that day as political props. Yet, when the bill comes due to take care of these people, it literally takes Jon Stewart repeatedly shaming the politicians before they reluctantly do so.

Mindy Shaw: On the day of 9/11 I had just walked into my high school 10th grade first-hour class, computerized accounting, to the TV on showing what was happening and had just happened.  My teacher at that time, Mr. Collette was a war vet and was actually bawling his eyes out.  He proceeded to tell all of us that we needed to be very worried about what was happening and that this was not “fake” or a normal thing that has happened in many, many years. To be honest I was one of the ones that thought it was all fake and almost like an April fool’s joke, so to speak, but then I was terrified and could not wrap my head around it until about third period when, not only was every one talking about it, but every teacher and staff member of our high school had their radios and TVs on watching the events unfold.  Probably at least half of the high school staff were veterans of some part of the armed forces in the U.S.A so it was a very high priority thing in our school and our town.  By lunch time they had dismissed school all together for that day which made it even more “real” and scary for me. 

Now all these years later I am still in shock and awe that this kind of thing even happened in and to the United States but I also have my own theories of how and why it happened, which are much different from back then as a 15-year-old high school student.  All I know for sure is that the U.S.A has, for the most part, been looked at in many different aspects from different countries as either a “good country” or a “bad one” and that we will always have some kind of enemy trying to take us down.

Francesca Hatzopoulos: I was in Sacramento, California at the time, my initial thought was fear, which turned into sadness and then to confusion, 20 years later I am proud of the American people and thankful to be here in America, as well as frustrated as a nation that we are fighting against each other, politics has really damaged us as a nation and an event like 9/11 is forgotten when this happens.