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Where were you?

On this, the 18th anniversary of 9/11, when our country was attacked by terrorists, the Courier wanted to know where our community leaders were that day and what they remember experiencing. We now have a whole generation of young people who don’t remember 9/11; they either weren’t born yet or were too young to understand how drastically our world changed when passenger planes used as weapons by hijackers hit the Twin Towers in New York City, the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and crashed in a Pennsylvania field. 

Nearly 3,000 people died in the attacks, excluding the 19 hijackers. More than 6,000 individuals were injured.  

Thousands of U.S. troops were killed or maimed – and continue to be – in the ongoing war in Afghanistan, and many were lost in the armed conflict in Iraq. These long and complex wars were the outcome of the 9/11 attacks. 

About 2,000 first responders who worked rescue and recovery at Ground Zero have died from cancer, and many more are sick, all caused by the toxins in the debris from the Twin Towers collapse. Congress – pressured by first responders and their advocates – recently passed a bill to ensure first responders made ill from the attacks’ aftermath would be permanently compensated, funding the health care they will need now and in the future. 

Yes, Americans’ way of life has changed in many ways because of 9/11.

Whitney Morris-Reed, public relations manager for the city of Hinesville:  “On September 11, 2001, I was 12 years old and attending Central Middle School in Huntsville, Ala. I remember changing classes and hearing some of my classmates say: ‘We’re being bombed!’ There was a lot of confusion and a lot of silence at school that day. Classroom lights were mostly off. Teachers did not offer guidance on what we were watching on live television; it was just as terrifying and confusing for them as it was for us. It was such a hard number to wrap our heads around: almost 3,000 people. Gone. And it did not come “just like that” for many of them. For many, death was a taunt staring them in the face and reflected in the eyes of my 8th grade History class. I saw it there in the days and weeks and years that followed. It was ingrained in our DNA; burned into the back of our eyelids. A looming presence demanding we fall prey to the terror and helplessness again and again. The scars of watching those people falling may have faded over time, but I think every child watching the events of that day playing out felt the shift in history. 9/11 became the origin point for every major event happening in the years during which we were just beginning to become aware of the larger world outside of our smaller, more immediate one. Some of us made it a point to combat what we experienced that day, some of us were left crippled without even realizing. I think that event spawned the underlying character of millennials and made us who we are: a generation born in peace, raised in war and torn between the two.”

Donald Lovette, Liberty County Commission Chairman: “I was at work at Liberty Regional. There was a TV in the patient’s waiting room. As soon as the word spread all eyes were glued to the TV in total shock and disbelief. There was not a lot said as we attempted to digest the unimaginable. As it all unfolded we later realized that it was a terrorist attack. We had relegated those kinds of attacks to other places, never here in the U.S. Of all places, America was attacked!  During the next few days and months all our differences were put aside and we came together as a country. Never can I remember in my lifetime when we’ve been more united.”

Hinesville Mayor Allen Brown:  “There are certain days in history that stand out in your life and you will always remember where you were and what you were doing when they happened – whether you want to remember them or not. These events are sometimes accompanied by the sense of before you knew a thing and the ‘after.’ For some younger generations, it may be difficult to remember what life was like before certain moments in history happened. Perhaps the difficulty lies in that they’ve never known what things were like ‘before.’ Like many of my generation, November 22, 1963 is one of those days that sticks out. I remember sitting in my American Government class at the Bradwell Institute when the announcement of JFK’s assassination was made. 9/11 is another one of those days. On September 11, 2001, I was in my real estate office – and it started like any other day. As I prepared for the day, my brother rushed into my office and asked if I had heard about what was happening in New York City. I’ll never forget sitting around our conference room table watching the events of the day unfold. The overwhelming feeling of tragedy that painted the room and has outlined that day ever sense. All those lives lost. The shockwaves still rippling through our society today. The memory of before and after.”

Larry Logan, Liberty County EMA Director:  “I was working first shift at Chemtall (SNF) in Riceboro, Georgia. We heard the news over the radio that one of the Twin Towers in New York had been struck by a plane. It was not long before we heard of a second plane hitting the second tower, that we knew we were under attack by terrorists. We watched the news for hours and wondered if we were at war on American soil. That was a rough day and hearing all the lives that were lost in the Twin Towers did not make it any better.”

Leah Poole, Chief Executive Officer Liberty County Chamber of Commerce and Liberty County Convention & Visitors Bureau: “I vividly remember where I was on 9/11 at the time that the first tower was hit, as well as the immediate hours following. I was driving and heard the news on the radio. I was employed by the Coastal Courier at the time in advertising and was on my way to Liberty Chrysler to get an ad proofed. I sat with the sales team at Chrysler for hours watching the news; I don’t think anyone spoke for at least an hour or longer. When I finally made it back to the Courier of course everyone there was stunned too, the newsroom was in panic mode and everyone stayed that way for days. Just like other huge things our country has experienced I’m not sure the people in my generation could ever adequately tell children today the impacts of 9/11 as they have been that long reaching in every aspect of our lives.”

District 5 Liberty County Commissioner Gary Gilliard: “I was at work (public works) and my first thought was of my brother who worked with Fed Ex in New York at the time. I said a prayer and called my guys together to let them know what I’d heard. Not knowing what was taking place, but with our proximity to Fort Stewart, I told everyone to proceed with caution; I knew we were at war!”

Hinesville Police Chief Bill Kirkendall: “On the morning of September 11, 2001, I was driving back to the drug unit after having served a search warrant in Liberty County. I had three other investigators in the truck with me and although we weren’t actively listening to the music on the radio, it was on and playing at a low volume as we discussed the evidence we had located; and got a plan together to go and process the detainees from the warrant. I heard the alert on the radio and turned it up as we listened to the news reports that a plane had just struck the World Trade Center in New York. I can remember we discussed how a pilot could have gotten so off course and maybe the aircraft had mechanical issues that caused this to happen. Personally, it didn’t occur to me that this could have been an intentional act. We arrived at the drug unit in the next few minutes and went inside to turn on the TV. Right after turning on the news we saw the second plane hit the south tower. It hit me like a ton of bricks, we were under attack. We watched in awe with the rest of the world as these great buildings fell and we knew the loss of life was tremendous. Being in law enforcement I, along with my co-workers, were so accustomed to going to the scene and doing something to help but like most of the nation, we were helpless to do anything.”

District 2 Long County Commissioner Mike Riddle: “I was only two years into my career at the Hinesville Fire Department, so I was still relatively new as a fireman. I was plumbing on my days off from the fire department, and was on a call at Cherokee Village when the tenant of the house I was working at said, ‘Man a plane just hit one of the Twin Towers.’ When it first happened, we both thought that a small plane had hit it, but didn’t really think much more than that. A few minutes later, the second plane hit the other tower, and we both knew it had to be a terrorist attack. I stood at that guy’s house for over an hour as we watched the replay of that second plane over and over hitting the tower. When the first tower fell, I began to think about all the people, who had to still been in the building. I couldn’t believe it, how could someone do this. Later the news about the Pentagon came out, and then the plane in Pennsylvania crashing. That day showed us that we were no longer isolated from danger, all of the bad stuff that we had always seen on the news, overseas, now could happen here too.  9/11 changed everything.”

District 2 Hinesville City Council Member Jason Floyd:  “I was working at the Heritage Bank Midway office. The entire staff and the customers seemed to be in shock all day. We watched on TV and online and I remember thinking the world would never be the same. When I got off work, I remember going to my parents’ house so we could all be together. We prayed for those who were killed and we waited to see what was next.”

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