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Where were you 20 years ago when 9/11 occurred?


September 11, 2001 is a day that left all of us terrorized. The actions of that day shattered our innocence as a country as we witnessed the unimaginable. Each year since, we remember the victims, the families, and survivors. We think of the brave police and fire officials that risked their lives that day to save others. Our hearts are heavy as we pay tribute to them all on this 20th anniversary. SPOTLIGHT asked citizens from our community to share their 9/11 story, where they were and what they were doing when they heard the news that we had been attacked. These are their stories…

It was as if it were yesterday. I was at home that morning recovering from a recent medical procedure. While leisurely eating breakfast and watching the morning national news, newscasters began to interrupt regular broadcasting to describe the first crash of a plane into one of the twin towers of the World Trade Center. It initially appeared to be an accident. I was in Atlanta and as I was telling my Mom, who lived in Washington, D.C., about the plane crash in New York City, I witnessed the second air strike into the other tower. I was glued to the T.V., almost in total shock, as I watched news on the strike on the Pentagon and the plane crash in Pennsylvania. I kept reaching out to my family, colleagues, and friends to update them on the events taking place in New York City.  As I was out on medical leave for a week, I never left the viewing of this terroristic horrific attack on America. That awful event was life changing for America and the world. It certainly changed me. Dr. Betty Ann Cook, Retired College Administrator

My fiancé (4 months pregnant) and I departed for Las Vegas September 8, 2001. We were to attend a formal birthday party for a client and friend the following day. After a few days of fun, we took the red-eye back to Atlanta, which departed just before midnight on September 10, 2001. We landed in Atlanta around 6:30 a.m. on September 11th. We headed straight home to catch up on some rest before I went to work. It wasn’t long before the telephone started ringing, waking us up. It was my grandmama, crying and asking where we were. “Turn on the TV” she said. I couldn’t believe what I saw…Jason Griggers, Owner Escape Hair Salon

As Regional Director for the United Negro College Fund I was on I/ 20 East headed to Florence, S. C. 20 years ago for an annual campaign kickoff luncheon. I stopped in Columbia, SC to pick up two colleagues from Benedict College who were attending with me. When I arrived at their office at Morgan House everyone was in their conference room flying around the television. That is when I discovered the tragic event. We continued to Florence quietly listening in shock and disbelief on the radio. We completed the luncheon and said a prayer as we returned to Columbia and Atlanta. A day I will always remember. Sam D. Burston, Vice President University Relations and External Affairs, Clark Atlanta University

I was in the third grade and recall my teacher turning on the TV to see what was happening. Classes were dismissed and we were sent home a short time later. I arrived home to find my Grandmother crying. I was too young to fully understand what was going on, but I knew something bad had happened if it made her cry. As an adult, I sympathize with all who lost loved ones and who were traumatized by the events of that horrific day.

Ryan Campbell, Owner of Chris’s Caribbean Bistro

On 9/11/2001 I was in my office at SunTrust Bank in downtown Atlanta. In our breakroom, someone came out and said something is happening in New York with the Twin Towers. We all ran around to the room and began watching live broadcasts and saw the 2nd tower get hit. We all began calling around family and friends. The rest of the workday was over.

Sharon Owens, Immediate Past President, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. (Douglas-Carroll-Paulding Counties Alumnae Chapter)

I was in Pique, Ohio on that date delivering UPS packages at Vision Mark, between 9:45 and 10:00 am. My friend Carol told me the devastating news on the attack on the Towers in New York. I was behooved by the devastation. GOD BLESS THEM ALL.

Dave Tires, Publix Customer Service 

I well remember where I was…on a fishing boat out of Pensacola, Florida. I had caught a boat load of red snapper and was proud of my days’ work. The boat came in and the planes crashing into the Twin Towers, the Pentagon and in the field in Pennsylvania was the talk of the dock. I had a numbing feeling, which soon turned to anger and disgust. We should have followed the dots and know ahead of time that ‘something wicked this way comes’. Now 20 years, we should continue to thank every veteran and current service member. Freedom is not free and our vigilance and commitment should not waiver. Michael Murphy, former Cobb County Special Assistant, Business Director for SLSwitch.

I was in construction/real estate development as I am today. My daughter, Shemica, had just returned from Cancun the night before. As I was getting dressed to head out, she was watching the attacks unfold in real time. I remember telling her we’re under attack after the first plane hit the first tower. She was in disbelief until the second plane hit the second tower. I was heading to the airport to pick up some international scientists that were interested in sharing groundbreaking environmental work with some HBCU students. I didn’t know at the time that all flights were grounded. Once I returned home, I focused on comforting my daughter, who is an extremely empathetic person. She was having trouble coping with what had occurred. In addition, her best friend since the 7th grade lived and worked in NYC and she couldn’t reach her all day. We went out for dinner that evening and it was there that she finally heard from her childhood friend. We were both able to release a sigh of relief. We finished our dinner and praised God that the one person we loved in NYC was safe. Wanda Cunningham, Real Estate Developer

I was living in Fort Worth, Texas and was on my way to work. I was a supply teacher and I was assigned to a youth detention center. The news on the radio said it was a small plane that hit the tower. Once I entered the building, I was shown to my classroom. An hour later, school officers entered the classroom and told us we had to go to the common area. While in the common area we were informed on what was going on. I recall not being able to use my cell phone because there was no signal. I was later told I could leave after they secured the area. I was released from the building after noon that day. Immediately, I got in my car and called my daughter’s babysitter and I told her I was coming to pick her up. When I arrived home I turned on the tv and started calling all my family members to make sure they were alright. Monica Delancy, Founder, We Thrive in Riverside Renters’ Association.

I remember 911 vividly. I was at work at a boutique law firm in Chicago, Illinois. A co-worker asked to turn on the television in the conference room and many of us left our desks and huddled around it watching in horror what was unfolding in New York. After what seemed like an hour, one of the named partners came into the conference room and screamed “stop watching this, it’s only designed to scare you, now go back to work!” We were disappointed and worried at the same time as we worked on the 34th floor of a large building that is also connected to the train station, in the heart of the city. We could see people scrambling about in the street trying to leave the city and learned about businesses in the building closing, yet we were told to do our job. Word quickly spread that companies within the city were instructed to immediately close, and citizens leave the city as transportation would become sparse in a matter of a few hours. I and others did not wait for instructions from the firm and began leaving. Reluctantly, the administrator closed the office within minutes of our decision. Like others, I was glued to my television into the morning hours and did not get much sleep. A couple of days later we returned to the office. The same partner held a firm-wide meeting where he apologized for his insensitivity and asked if any of us needed help as a result of the events that transpired. Michael Carson, Founder, Image Builders

I was attending an airport conference in Montreal that was to commence on September 11th. The weekend before the conference, I flew into NY to attend the U. S Open where I got to see Venus and Serena play. It was euphoric to have witnessed the hard-hitting sisters in action. I made my way to the N.Y. airport on Sunday for my flight to Canada, which had a connecting flight out of Boston’s Logan Airport.

I made it to Montreal and quickly connected with colleagues and friends. I was still excited from my weekend as I got up Monday morning to get dressed to attend the opening session of the conference. I turned on the TV. I noticed that the sound was turned down low and saw what I thought at the time was a movie playing on the T.V. that showed a plane flying into a tall building. When I came out of the bathroom, I saw that the channel was still playing the same clip of the plane flying into the building. I turned up the sound and tried turning to other channels, but the same images were on. It was only then that I realized that what I was seeing was not a movie. I saw news reporters I recognized who said that a plane had struck one of the Twin Towers in NY. Assuming this was a bad accident, I watched in horror as the second plane came into view and hit the second tower. I recall screaming as the plane hit. Shortly after that, the news was reporting that a plane had struck the Pentagon in Washington and a different plane crashed in a field in Pennsylvania. Chaos ensued and everyone was in a state of pandemonium. Flights were halted in the U.S. and our conference was cancelled before it could get started. Airport general managers and senior staff from airports around the country were in Montreal with us. We were all stuck outside of our country with no idea how we would get home or when.

Some of my colleagues decided to rent a car to drive back to Atlanta. We had heard rumors that the borders had been closed, but they were going to take a chance that they could get back into the U. S. by car. I felt helpless and wanted to be back on U.S. soil, but did not want to drive to the border and be turned back. I chose to remain at the hotel, which extended reservations for everyone who wanted to stay. I recall the eerie quietness that took over the conference hotel. Groups of people were huddled together and glued to TV’s scattered around the lobby. We were all traumatized and everyone spoke in hushed tones. I am reminded how helpless I felt being outside of the U.S. while our country was under attack. Our Canadian brethren were so kind and gracious to the U.S. citizens that were, for lack of a better word, stranded abroad. It would be five long days before the airport reopened and I was able to fly home.

What haunted me the most during that week was the thought that I had been in N.Y. just a day earlier; I ate at a restaurant near the twin towers; and I flew in and out of Boston Logan airport a day before terrorists boarded planes and turned them into weapons against the U.S. I have very little memory of seeing the Williams sisters play. I know I was there, but the images of the planes hitting the twin towers occupy most of my thoughts about that trip. I am also reminded how helpless I felt being outside of the U.S. while this was occurring. I wanted to be back in my country.

Shelia Edwards, SPOTLIGHT South Cobb News Publisher 

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