Mark Howell's - "View From the Hill"
Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ten years ago today, at 8:46 a.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001, a hijacked American Airlines Flight 11 flew into the World Trade Center's North Tower. At 9:03 a.m., a hijacked United Airlines Flight 175 flew into the South Tower. At 9:37 a.m., a hijacked American Airlines Flight 77 flew into the Pentagon. At 10:03 a.m., a hijacked United Airlines Flight 93 flew into a field near Shanksfield, Pa. Here are local memories of that morning.

'I was in Los Angeles attending a police conference. When the first plane went in, my cell phone started exploding with unbelievable news. A childhood friend was with me who worked at Windows on the World and we watched on TV the destruction of his place of employment. He saw a lot of his friends lost and was completely distraught. He ended up taking a Grayhound bus to get back to New York. I remember feeling so helpless that morning. There we were, a couple of hundred police officers and all completely stuck in L.A."

-- Donie Lee, Key West Police Chief


'Sept. 11, 2001 was Cheryl and my 30th wedding anniversary. We'd been in Nashville for a few days to celebrate, then came home on Sept. 10 to be in Key West on the 11th. I was at work that morning when my daughter called and said a plane had flown into one of the twin towers in New York. I went into our waiting room at Cates Automotive and turned on the TV just in time to see the second plane fly into the other tower. Everyone was so upset and once we found out it was a terrorist attack on America I remember telling my children the world will never be the same. It was a wake-up call to realize how evil people could be."

-- Craig Cates, Key West City Mayor


'Iwill never forget that day. I was at my desk as deputy fire chief getting ready for the next fiscal year. The TV was on the Today Show when the news broke. In the next few moments the second airliner crashed into the towers and all hell broke lose. Our KWFD firefighters were calling and coming to the office and wanting to know what could be done to help. Our staff was put on standby by the state and ready to go but we weren't called. A few weeks later, members from our fire department went to New York to lend support on their own time and money. It's sad that it took a tragedy like this to recognize the importance of the firefighters and police officers and other public safety officers in this country. I don't think any of us will ever forget that day. May God bless America and the lives and families of 9/11/01."

-- Billy Wardlow, Key West City Commissioner, ret'd Fire Chief


'I was on the staff at the Navy's Atlantic Fleet Headquarters when we heard about the first crash into one of the towers. I was in the conference room watching TV news reports when the second tower was hit. At that point we all knew it was not an accident. The phones began to ring and I was asked to assist with the planning effort to get fully-armed aircraft out to the carrier USS John F. Kennedy, which was conducting training operations off the coast of Virginia. The ship was immediately diverted to patrol off the coast of New York. In a very short time, armed aircraft were launched from Naval Air Station Oceana to fly out to the carrier to perform Combat Air Patrol missions off the coast of the city."

-- Jim Scholl, Key West City Manager


'My daughter Jacqueline Nicole Jara was born Sept. 10, 2001. So I was enjoying the birth of my third child -- and only girl -- when the following day I was saddened to witness the grief that so many families experienced. To this day, as we celebrate her birthday weekend, I think about those horrible attacks on our great nation."

--Jesus Jara, Monroe County Supt. of Schools


"There have been three world-shaking days in my 75 years on this earth. The first was the day President Roosevelt declared war, Dec. 7, the second was the assassination of President Kennedy on Nov. 22 and the third was and will always be known simply as 9/11. When the first occurred, I was quite young but very frightened by the grown-ups' reaction to this news on the radio. The second occurred when I was raising young children and, frankly, rocked my world and everyone else's. But 9/11 can only be described as mind-numbing for days. It totally changed the way most of us think of our world and its inhabitants. Who could possibly dream up such a plan? It was brought home to us in the fire service with the notification that our fellow firefighter's son was one of the first ones to lose his life in the Tower - a volunteer with a New York unit."

-- Sylvia Murphy, Monroe County Commissioner


'I was getting ready to go to work at the Broward Sheriff's Office Robbery Unit and listening to the car and police radios when it became apparent it was a planned attack. I remember calling my ex-wife to make sure she and my son were OK; they were in Fort Lauderdale. A few months later I was transferred to a newly created unit in our Strategic Investigations Department, the Counter Terrorism Unit. I was sent to New York City for training and visited Ground Zero. It was surreal, I'll never forget the streets and buildings still covered in dust and the endless line of people, some crying, walking around a church with a six-foot iron fence on its perimeter that was covered with pictures of missing people along with cards and flowers and tributes to the people who'd perished. We were escorted to the site where the towers once stood tall. There was an army of workers clearing debris. An NYPD captain spoke to us and told us never to forget how we felt that day because this was only the beginning."

-- Jim Young, Key West code enforcement


'I was having breakfast with friends at New York Pizza in Key West when my son, who lived in Amsterdam, called and asked, 'Where are you and what are you doing?' I told him and he said, 'Go into the kitchen and see if there's a TV!' I laughed and asked why. He said 'Never mind, just do it now!' I walked to the outdoor kitchen door and could see the TV image from there and saw the smoke from the first building and heard both my son's and the TV's narration. I hollered for everybody at the table to come quick. We saw the second plane slam into the building and knew immediately what it meant. 'Where's Ginger?' My son asked. My daughter was nine months pregnant and married to an NYPD cop. My mind leaped to the thoughts that must be going through her head. We called. No answer. The only things I remember about the rest of the day were continuous phone calls and the constant TV. Caught in each loop, the rerun image of my ash-covered son-in-law, the soon-to-be-father of my firstborn grandchild, heading grim-faced into the rubble, helping stricken, ash-covered survivors leave the scene. My son-in-law still suffers physical problems from this and, wouldn't you know, as with so many first-responders who served, suffered and survived, the insurance does not want to pay."

-- Chris Stone, Key West writer


'Ihave many feelings about 9/11 but two really great sadnesses regarding the tragedy. The first is obviously at the great loss of life and how devastating for the many family members and friends of those who perished. The second is more obscure. It is amazing how such a limited group of Muslim extremists has created an almost total xenophobic reaction against all followers of Islam. In my estimation they have set good relations between the Islamic world and the West back by about 50 years. I believe in One Human Family and wish that the rest of the world was a little more like Key West.

-- Peter H. Batty, mortgage broker and deacon


'At the end of one of Kitty Herbert's yoga classes on the beach at Sugarloaf Lodge, I wandered for some reason into the little grocery store adjacent to the resort. It was about 10 a.m. and the radio was reporting these very strange occurrences of planes hitting the World Trade Center where once my husband and small sons traditionally took me to Mothers' Day brunch at Windows on the World. I drove home to Porpoise Point on Big Coppitt and spent the day in front of the TV, trying to make sense of the attack. I phoned local Arab-American, Muslim friends, offering shelter should they be threatened -- one of many who called. But I was mostly numb with horror. Not fear. Not even sadness. Horror."

-- Connie Gilbert, Key West writer


'Ihave very vivid memories of 9/11. There was a photo on the front page of The Key West Citizen of my mom praying in St. Mary's that day. The late chief public defender and my dear friend Nancy Rossell called me as I was leaving for work and said, 'Turn on the TV right now!' I saw the second tower go down. I was stunned. I was in that building so many times and I still mourn those we lost. A very close friend of mine -- she and her partner now have a home by the Southernmost Point -- worked and would have been in that building had she not had a doctor's appointment. Seventy percent of her co-workers perished. "

-- Rev. Stephen Braddock, Florida Keys Outreach Coalition


'Iwas getting ready to sing at the Hog's Breath Saloon. By the time I flipped on the TV, both towers had already fallen and the Pentagon had been hit. I had no idea what I was seeing. It was the first time I really meant that I couldn't wrap my mind around this. My aunt and her two daughters are flight attendants and the first thing I did was call home to Texas and check on them. One cousin was in the air and diverted to Seattle. Then I had to go sing. Perform. Make people happy. And I was a wreck. But a man came up to the stage and told me that he and the small crowd at the Hog needed me and the diversion I was giving them. Two years later, on Sept. 9, I was in New York and walking from my hotel to do a show in Greenwich Village and, waiting to cross a street, I complimented a man on his fine English springer spaniel. We were standing in what used to be the shadow of the Twin Towers and he said to me: 'You never know the comfort a dog can give you until it jumps into your bed when your wife doesn't come home from work on 9/11.'"

-- Clint Bullard, singer guitarist, Nashville and Key West


'Unlike most of our countrymen, we did not see the initial news accounts or otherwise even learn of the awful events in New York City on the morning of Sept. 11. We were aboard the maiden Atlantic crossing of a new cruise ship along with our friends Frank Romano and Joe Litzka. The four of us got together for cocktails and supper and headed for a dining room, totally unaware. We knew something was up when an excited waiter greeted us and broke the news. We choked down a few bites of food and headed back to our rooms to watch the BBC reports in stunned silence. Ashore at a pub in Iceland the next day, the few locals present recognized us as Americans and, without a word being spoken, they gathered together to face us and sang 'God Bless America.'"

-- Ed Block, retired executive


'Iwas working with a crew at the foot of Ocean Drive in Miami Beach, now Prime 112 Steak House. There were several other big construction projects going on around us -- cranes, concrete trucks and the usual busy traffic. Then at some point we realized all the noise outside had stopped. Total silence. We looked out the windows and every street in sight was vacant. One of the carpenters got a call from his wife and we were stunned by the news. I sent everybody home and we wandered away through those sunny, empty blocks with nobody in sight, as though the explosions had taken place in South Beach and everyone was dead."

-- George Halloran, former Key West city commissioner


'Sept. 11 is my birthday and the time of year when I take stock of my life. On Sept. 11, 2001 I was living in Colorado and heard a reporter on the radio announce that spectators on the ground were screaming about fragments falling from a building. Little did I know it was an attack on us until I turned on the TV and saw the plane crash into the second tower. For me, that event was the start of a journey that brought me home to Florida. The next summer, on the first anniversary of 9/11, I was undergoing treatment for breast cancer. Thus that date is a reminder that it's important to live life more fully each and every day. Swiss poet and philosopher Henri-Frederic Amiel is my daily inspiration: 'Oh, do not let us wait to be just or demonstrative toward those we love until they or we are struck down by illness or threatened with death ... Oh, be swift to love, make haste to be kind!' And go in peace to love and serve others."

-- Dianna Sutton, CEO, Community Foundation of the Fla. Keys


'The 106th floor of the World Trade Center was the site of seven years of many happy memories. In 1976 I landed a job working for Joe Baum, creator of Windows on the World on the 107th floor above the other 23 restaurants, cafés and coffee stops in that vertical city of 25,000 inhabitants. Windows on the World quickly became the largest grossing restaurant in the world. We never tired of the view, it was different each day. We looked down on helicopters and watched storm clouds roll in. We grew used to seeing water sloshing from side to side in the basins on very windy days and occasionally felt seasick. On 9/11, my first, knee-jerk reaction was a memory of those frequent and seemingly endless fire drills we were required to practice -- and often didn't unless we were forced to. It involved walking down the emergency staircase (no windows, concrete block walls) from our floor to the sky-lobby on the 78th floor. Then I thought of the desperate people rushing down those very same stairs, for real this time. May they rest in peace."

-- Jane Dawkins, Key West writer


'There is a stretch of I-95 in New Jersey where the New York City skyline first appears, a stretch that demands silent reflection. It bares emotional impressions left by all who have passed this way since the towers fell. Fear. Sorrow. Loss. Anger. Disbelief. Despair. Courage. Hope. And love. I was in love with a German dancer in Key West when the towers fell. We were lounging inside her Bahama Village home, naked, sipping French-press coffee as Flight 11 hit the north tower. We didn't realize the gravity of the situation at the time but it struck us as events continued to unfold. We looked at each other without speaking. Our eyes expressed the very emotions soon to be impressed on that stretch of I-95. And our fears gave way to smiles. Love has a unique way of assuring you everything will be okay, even on days when the world is going to hell around you."

-- David L. Sloan, Key West writer/publisher


'Imoved from Manhattan and had been living in Key West for a year when 9/11 happened. I was getting ready to go into Pearl's when I heard NPR announce that a plane had hit one of the towers. At first they said it was a small plane and I remember imagining something like the biplanes that ran into King Kong on the Empire State Building. Then they reported it was an airliner, so I turned on the TV and watched as the second tower was hit. At that moment, you knew it wasn't an accident. I stayed home that morning, glued to the TV. I had dined often at Windows on the World, I had a friend who worked for a company that provided the carpet for the immense lobbies every six months and I sang with a soprano who worked in the towers. As the week progressed, I learned that several acquaintances from my former congregation at the First Presbyterian Church in New York had died in the towers. In October I visited the city and was struck by how pervasive was the acrid smell of smoke anywhere south of 59th Street. And you could still see the smoke from my old neighborhood in the Village. I have so many mixed feelings about the aftermath of 9/11. There's the unbearable grief. There's the imponderable wondering about how we could not have known, especially when a friend tells you that her neighbor of Middle Eastern descent warned her son not to go to work in the towers that day - and the neighbor and his family then vacated his house overnight. Then there's the disbelief that all the goodwill of the aftermath was squandered and we became sidetracked by a vengeful, duplicitous conflict in Iraq. I guess I think of 9/11 as one of those moments when your eyes are opened wide, when what you thought to be true is revealed not to be. The kind of thing that makes you more cynical, less trusting, a little more dispirited. It was a defining moment, and I think it overshadows much of what we do today."

-- Heather Carruthers, Monroe County Mayor


'Consider how Sept. 11 has changed our lives and the direction of our country. Osama bin laden has gone but did he win his battle with us? He added billions of dollars to our enormous deficit. He caused the loss of many of our freedoms and taken the joy out of air travel. Should Sept. 11 cause us to live forever in fear? Here's what to do: Declare our independence from this scourge. One of the costs of freedom is often living with risk. We should eliminate many of the defensive policies that are supposedly protecting us from these assumed risks. The wasteful bureaucracy set up to protect us from the occasional acts or the planning of acts of violence, these could be eliminated and the savings applied to beneficial programs such as a reduction in the national debt, employment opportunities, etc. Sept. 11 should be a reminder that we are the guardians of the American spirit."

-- Justin Kawaler, philanthropist


'I was traveling with my partner Alan and our dog Goldie back to Key West from Vancouver, Canada. That morning we were in Clarksville, Tenn. and watched in horror as the planes flew into the towers. Once on the road, the car radio was our link to the terrifying events. Driving through downtown Atlanta was especially strange -- the usually clogged highway was virtually empty. Amber alert signs read: "National Emergency. All Flights Are Canceled Indefinitely." Back in 1976, I'd worked as a waiter at a restaurant in Tower One. There was a ticket booth in one of the towers that sold half-price theater tickets, invaluable for a struggling actor/dancer. Now those structures had been reduced to smoking rubble, burying a staggering amount of life."

-- Danny Weathers, artistic director, Waterfront Playhouse


'Lynn-Marie and I arrived in Key West from Washington D.C. to take up residence on Sept. 3, 2001 and rented a townhouse in Truman Annex for a year. So there we were, knowing not a soul on the island and waiting for our stuff to arrive. On the morning of Sept. 11 we left the house for a walk, ending up on a stroll along Truman in the direction of St. Mary's Star of the Sea. Across from the CVS store we began to pass a miniscule take-out sandwich establishment with a small TV set screwed into the wall near the ceiling. I don't know what motivated us to turn our heads to see what might be on the screen. We watched as an airplane smashed into a tall building and exploded in a burst of flames and smoke. Another disaster film from Hollywood? Then a voice from the TV screamed something about a second plane flying into the building. Was this a contemporary version of the Orson Welles radio broadcast of 'The War of the Worlds' of 1938, this time in living color? What else could it be? We learned, of course, very soon; this was real. We slowly staggered on up the avenue, forgetting our original destination, wandering around in a daze, trying to understand what we had seen."

-- Brewster Chamberlin, Key West writer


'Early morning on Sept. 11, 2001, I was awakened by Kenny, the lead singer of the Bars. He told me to turn on my TV and I saw, on every channel, the first airplane diving onto the World Trade Center. I watched, live, the next plane, then we learned of the heroism of Flight 93. It was just so dark (September rains) and so quiet (nothing was flying). Kind of like a hurricane but not really. The skies were quiet and ominous but, next weekend, the Poker Run bikers still drove down in unprecedented numbers. Rock 'n roll still rang along Duval Street and a lot of money flew through Key West that weekend. Because we islanders are the way we are, a lot of that money went to help people at Ground Zero."

-- Laurine Laxer, Key West teacher, entertainer, store manager


'I had been honored to open a boutique hotel in midtown New York as concierge. Our concierge team was very personable and I was proud to be part of it. Our guests became immediate family. The Marsh McLennan company was just a block from the hotel and we always had their people staying with us. On Sept. 10, 2001, I worked the 3 to 11 p.m. shift. My last guest request for the evening was to book a corporate charter bus to the World Trade Center at 7 a.m. on Sept. 11. I left for my home upstate never thinking our lives would be changed forever. I woke at about 7:30 a.m. The time between watching the first plane hit a tower and my call to the concierge on duty was a matter of minutes. He told me that the bus had already arrived at the World Trade Center and guests were at their meeting. He had no idea of the catastrophe in progress. I told him what had happened and that was the last contact I had due to no phone service. I lost many friends and associates on that Tuesday -- FDNY, NYPD, Port Authority, staff from Windows on the World and those hotel guests, 33 in all. New York and I would never be the same again. But I have a new city now, the city of Key West, an amazing place, a friendly, caring community that cannot be rivaled. Love your family, love your friends. We are One Human Family."

-- Brian Quattrini, movie producer


'Istill feel today ... what a shame

what a violation -

how could this happen in America?

how dare they -


I can't imagine if it was my husband or son or daughter or brother!

what courageous and giving people we have -

don't people believe in God?

angry and sad that the criminals thought so little of life -

they don't understand us-

envy is so destructive -

the devil never stops -

God will get us through this -

what was the meaning?

they have hurt our morale

put us in harms' way

robbed us of our joy

made us feel so helpless

caught us off guard -

how sad to live in fear -

thank God for those who protect us while we sleep today -

not fair"

-- Elena Spottswood, Key West resident


'On this anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001, let us remember Pope John II who himself was victim of a terrorist's attack, and in particular remember his words to us at that time: 'To pray for peace is to open the human heart to the inroads of God's power to renew all things. With the life-giving force of his grace, God can create openings for peace where only obstacles and closures are apparent. He can strengthen and enlarge the solidarity of the human family in spite of our endless history of division and conflict. To pray for peace is to pray for justice, for a right ordering of relations within and among nations and peoples. It is to pray for freedom, especially for the religious freedom that is a basic human and civil right of every individual. To pray for peace is to seek God's forgiveness and to implore the courage to forgive those who have trespassed against us.' To commemorate the anniversary of 9/11 at Saint Mary Star of the Sea we will pray for the victims of the attacks at all of the weekend Masses. Local first responders will form an honor guard at the church and many of us will join in the commemoration at the Firefighters' Museum on Virginia Street at 6 p.m. today, Sept. 11."

-- Rev. John Baker, St. Mary Star of the Sea


Quote for the Week:

"I'll never forget, because it was Malia's first day of preschool. It was a beautiful, crisp, bright day. And I remember feeling optimistic that my little girl was going off to school, and the world for her was just opening up. We were in the car, and I had NPR on and thought, 'What does this mean for my daughter's life now? Has the world fundamentally been changed? Are we now a nation at war?' So for me it was about the future."

-- Michelle Obama