Locals remember attacks

Published 9:44 pm Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Seven years ago today, at 7:46 a.m. Central Time, American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York City. That action began a day that we will all remember.

Just 17 minutes later, at 8:03 a.m. CT, United Airlines Flight 175 crashed into the South Tower, and speculation that the first crash was an accident ended, and suspicions of an outright attack or a conspiracy began.

The South Tower collapsed at 8:59 a.m. CT, and the North Tower followed at 9:28 a.m.

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Planes were ordered to become grounded to assist in the search for any other hijacked airplanes. As authorities worked feverishly to get the story behind the assault, American Airlines Flight 77 — scheduled to fly to Los Angeles as the other two flights were — was seen leaving Washington, D.C., then going off-course back to Washington, crashing into the Pentagon at 8:37 a.m. CT. By that time, most of the commercial flights had been grounded, and the national radar was empty, except for one flight, United Airlines Flight 93, seen heading southeast over Pennsylvania on a path towards Washington.

Passengers had heard about the previous assaults through their cell phones and moved to overtake the hijackers. Fearing they would be overwhelmed by the passengers, the hijackers turned the plane towards the ground, crashing it at 9:03 a.m. CT near Shanksville, Pa. Investigators believe that flight was going to the U.S. Capitol, and it was just 20 minutes’ flight time from Washington.

Almost all of us remember where we were when we first heard about the first crash on that fateful day.

“I was at home, getting ready to go to work,” said John Compton of Demopolis. “By the time I got to work, I saw the tower fall. I assumed it was terrorists, but I didn’t know if it was from local people or from people abroad.”

“I was at Westside Elementary School, teaching kindergarten,” said Vickie Wilson of Demopolis. “Betty Hilbish came up to me and told me a plane had hit the tower. I rushed into my room and turned on the TV.”

“I was in the middle of IT (information technology) budget meetings in Atlanta,” said Lee Jordan of Demopolis. “They brought a TV into the meeting room so we could know what was going on. They told everybody to go home, and it was surreal in Atlanta. The streets were packed with people trying to go home.”

It was an event that continues to shape our lives. It is a defining moment that will affect much of American life for years to come.