” 9-11-2001 started like any other day at the HelpDesk. At least until I heard my co-worker say “Oh my God”. Four of us were suddenly at her desk watching the coverage of the planes hitting the World Trade Center and Pentagon. We didn’t know what to think. I worked in an organization on Fort Riley with about 300 people. Within minutes the people in our buildings were all talking about the events and all of the supervisors were summoned. When they returned, every staff group was brought together to discuss what happened. We were told Fort Riley was immediately going to be gated and we had no clue of what tomorrow would bring. The information relayed to us was the same as we were seeing on the news coverage on our computers. My boss reminded us that the MP’s at the gates were little more than kids, most of them probably less than 25 years old and scared. Our next thoughts turned to our Director who was on an airplane at the time this was all unfolding; his plane was grounded in Ohio so arrangements had to be made to drive to bring him home. It was a very eerie day and so many people were very frightened and didn’t know what to do. As we left work, we didn’t know if we would be back to work the next day. I didn’t watch much TV; it was senseless to watch the events over and over again. We knew our world had changed due to these terrorists.”
-Sue Simmons, FHVC Board President & Senior Corps RSVP Volunteer
“On September 11, 2001, I was an Alexandria Police Department (VA) police lieutenant. Alexandria is adjacent to the county where the Pentagon is located and on the morning of 9/11 I was driving to work a little later than normal due to a late night City Council Meeting. I heard a radio news report that a plane had hit the World Trade Center. I knew from previous incidents that small airplanes had crashed into New York skyscrapers so I didn’t think anything of it. After I arrived at work I noticed a group of employees huddled near a television and we could see images of the damage and I knew then that no small airplane caused the damage. As we watched the coverage another airplane struck the adjacent tower and soon an image of that was replayed as it flew into the building. We knew then that none of this was an accident. As we started hearing reports of other possible hijackings an airplane struck The Pentagon which was located about 7 miles away as the crow flies from our police HQ. Our department sent police officers to assist and soon we could see from Alexandria thick black smoke rising into the sky. I was not sent, but was at The Pentagon a few days later to survey the damage. I had lived in Washington, D.C. for 30 years and driven by The Pentagon hundreds of times. The scale of the damage was surreal. Anyone who had seen The Pentagon up close knew how big that building is and how incredible it was to the extent of the damage.
My wife was at home when she heard a knock at the door and a good friend of ours was standing there. He was a Lt. Colonel in the Air Force and assigned to the Pentagon. She said he stood there with a shocked look on his face. She asked him why he was there and he said, “They told us to leave and I didn’t know where else to go.” She tried to get him to go inside but he politely declined and said he would go home instead. We later learned that other people in The Pentagon were told to evacuate and leave the area because there was still so much uncertainty about what would happen next; of course we all know about Flight 93’s crash in rural Pennsylvania.
I have a photo of the damaged Pentagon on my office wall depicting an Alexandria Police cruiser in the foreground and look at it almost every day. 9/11 changed local policing forever in our country and when I relocated to Kansas in 2004 I found that to be true here, too. May God bless the United States of America and the people affected by that day forever.”
-Director Dennis Butler, Riley County Police Department
“As I was walking from Mr. Ferriolo’s biology class at Thomas Dale High School in Chester, Virginia to Mrs. Torrance’s geometry class, one of my goofball classmates was speaking loudly about how buildings in New York City were falling down. Due to his reputation, nobody believed him. Not more than five minutes into the geometry lesson, we were interrupted by Principal Ballard. She was personally going door to door explaining to each class what information was known at the time, which was not much. She told us that the World Trade Center had been hit, and more important to us, the Pentagon as well. People tend to forget the Pentagon is located in Virginia. Next to Chester is Fort Lee, and down the road less than two hours depending on traffic is Naval Station Norfolk, and about an hour away is Langley Air Force Base, Fort Eustis, and Fort Monroe. Fort Belvoir is about an hour and a half north. A lot of my classmates were from military families. Some parents went to the Pentagon for work from time to time, including my father. There was much confusion, shock, and fear about what this might mean for so many families. We stayed in school the rest of the day, but there would be no lessons. We just shifted from classroom to classroom silently watching the news replay the moments that would set the tone for the rest of our young lives.”
-SSgt William Paulus, FHVC Volunteer
“I was employed as a Disaster Coordinator for The Salvation Army when I left our home for a meeting in Western Kansas the morning of September 11, 2001. I remember turning on the radio and hearing the first news reports coming in about a twin engine jet flying into the upper floors of the World Trade Center, causing a massive explosion and fire. My first thoughts were prayers for family members of those on the plane and those who had been sitting at desks, planning their days. I watched as the aftermath of that day played out on TV and radio. October 2, 2001, I received a call to deploy to Ground Zero for ten days of service as an Emotional and Spiritual Care provider. Two days later my flight landed at LaGuardia Airport in Queens, New York, where I was escorted to a small tent at the edge of The Pit…”
-Deb Abner, Senior Corps RSVP Volunteer
“When my teacher turned on the news the morning of 9/11 for our eighth grade class, I stared at unfamiliar buildings with a huge cloud of smoke billowing out of them. Confused, I started asking questions. Where is this? What buildings are those? I was answered with “Shhh, watch!” So I watched. Nothing seemed to make sense, and I struggled to comprehend the gravity of the situation. Little did I know, the events of that morning began a ripple that would forever change our lives. As the country ramped up its defenses, my family heard the call to arms. One by one, my generation answered. My step-brother, Brandon, joined the Marines and left for Iraq shortly after. Months later, we received a knock on our door from two very somber Marines in their dress blues, and our lives were never the same again. Brandon’s death did not deter us from serving, but rather inspired us. My brother, Rob, continued on to become a Marine officer, while I found myself following right behind him in the Army (and later Army Reserves). In total, our generation produced four Marines, one Sailor, and one Soldier. That fateful September morning began a chain reaction that shaped our family in ways we couldn’t have imagined.”
-CPT Stephanie Rivera, FHVC Volunteer
“Former KMAN News Director, Steve Forman and I were live on the air the morning on 9/11. I had CNN on the 13″ TV in the KMAN studio,and saw the initial reports of a plane flying into the WTC. We talked about what was happening live on the air, basically giving a play-by-play account of what CNN was showing. We didn’t know anything about the first plane, neither did CNN. Then we watched, while we were live on the air, the second tower got hit. I looked at Steve in a state of disbelief and said, “did I really see what I think I saw?” Steve was silent. “It looks as if the second tower has also been struck by another plane. Obviously, this is a terrorist attack.”
When the towers fell, we lost communications with our news network, whose satellites were atop the WTC. We didn’t have internet in the studio at that time, and we shared what we could get from CNN and used the Associated Press teletype bulletins to keep listeners up to date. It was a mad scramble.
One of the things I remember most about that day was when my late wife and daughter stopped by the station for their regular morning visit on the way to school. My wife asked, “what was going on?” “I don’t know, but it’s not good.” The car hugs that morning were so refreshing.”
-Dave Lewis, KMAN News Radio
“When 9/11 happened I had been retired from the USAF for just over 2 years. I was working at my new job and we started hearing the news that morning; everything in the office kind of slowed down and we were all walking around in disbelief.
I remember one of my coworkers mom calling to check on her daughter; she was afraid for her since she traveled sometimes for work. In the days that followed I started checking to see if I could go back on active duty because it seemed like retirees might be needed. They said there were lots of Reserve & Guard that would get called up before the Retirees but they’d let me know if that changed. It was such a shocking catastrophic event that it’s etched in your mind forever. I simply cannot imagine how awful it must have been for those on the front lines. I used to go TDY (temporary duty yonder) to the Pentagon every few months at my last USAF duty assignment and the thought of the destruction & damage to the people working there and the facility was heartbreaking. It pulled on my heartstrings when I thought of all those first responders since I was married to a police officer. I pray we never endure another tragedy like this.”
-SMSgt Donna Wilkins (Ret.), Senior Corps RSVP Volunteer
“As a young firefighter getting ready to go home after my shift, I sat in the firehouse on Poyntz Avenue that morning in September of 2001, excited to watch the greatest fire department in the United States extinguish the biggest fire imaginable to me, 100 floors above the street…on live tv. I had no idea our country was under attack or what was to come, and just over one hour later, everything changed.
I spoke with my dad around noon that day. He was a Vietnam veteran and he had just found out some family in the area of NYC was safe. As we talked, I could tell he was crying. I didn’t understand why, and asked him with everyone in his family safe, why are you crying? He said he hoped that my brother and I would never have to witness the terrors of war, especially not on our own soil.
Honor is one of our core values at MFD and we define it as “We will conduct ourselves in a way that surpasses expectations and shows respect to those that served before us”. When I think of honor, I like to think about the firefighters climbing the towers with an unbelievable sense of duty committed to saving others, not knowing their ultimate fate, but recognizing that the outcome would end with some of them not returning home. At the fire department, I think we should strive to have that same sense of duty as we are helping and serving others in need.”
-Deputy Chief Ryan Almes, Manhattan Fire Department
“I remember that day so clearly. My three children were getting ready for school and were watching TV as I was putting breakfast away. I got a glimpse of the news and saw the Twin Towers being hit and crashing down.
It was all so surreal. I had my hand over my mouth and told the kids to be quiet. I was shocked and couldn’t believe what was happening. I held my children tightly. I could feel the tears coming down my face.
I took them to school without saying a word. I remember hugging them very tight before I drove away quickly. I didn’t want them to see me cry.
It was such a devastating feeling that day and still is every time I think about it. The indelible memory stays with me to this day.
The lost lives, the families, the responders, and the senseless act have changed our lives forever.
We will never forget.”
-Mayor Usha Reddi, City of Manhattan
“On the morning of 9/11, I was attending a meeting at the Manhattan Fire Department. It was a monthly emergency directors meeting. During the meeting, I received a phone call from my wife asking if I was close to a television. She stated that a plane had flown into the World Trade Center. Chief French and I left the conference room and went to his office where he turned on the television. While watching the news as they were describing the scene, we saw the second plane hit the other tower. Being totally at awe and thinking, “Oh my God what is going on?”, we learned later the planes were hijacked. At the time, I was the Police Chief at Kansas State University.
On that day, I was upset that someone or group had attacked our country and caused severe pain that had never been felt before. The loss of life and devastation on the city of New York. The innocent loss of life, the effective families who lost loved ones. After receiving a phone call from the President’s office, a meeting was called on how to respond and assure the safety of our students from the region where the hijackers came from.”
-Chief Ronnie Grice, K-State Police Department & FHVC Board Member