Remembering 9-11

Kate Wehlann, Staff Writer

Along with so many tragedies and triumphs, large and small, we remember where we were when they happened. Those old enough to remember can tell you where they were when World War II was over, when Kennedy was assassinated, when man walked on the moon, when the Challenger exploded, when the Berlin Wall fell, when their mother died, when they found out they were going to be a parent, and, of course, 9/11.

‘It was like the end of the world’

When Jennifer Sands got up on the morning of Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001, she had no idea it would change her life forever. She went through her normal routine, watching her husband, Jim, get ready for work and start off on his two-hour commute from their home in New Jersey to his office on the 103rd floor of the north tower of the World Trade Center. Each day he went to work at 6 a.m. and spent a total of four hours on the road before coming home.

“It was a brutal commute,” she said Sunday as she spoke at Bunker Hill Christian Church. “Because he was on the road so much, I always worried about him. I worried about car accidents, I worried about his car breaking down, I worried about everything, so every morning when Jim left for work, I would pray for God to keep him safe. I prayed that morning, too.”

She was off for the day from her work as a pharmacist, but called in at 9 a.m. to make sure the pharmacists working that day didn’t have questions for her. It was 15 minutes after the first plane hit the first tower at 8:46 a.m.

“I couldn’t believe what I heard and then I turned on the television,” she said.

Those old enough to remember know what she saw. A misleadingly small blip of white smashing into the side of the wall of metal on a screen. The black plume of smoke as American Airlines Flight 11, flying in from Boston, smashed into floors 93 to 99, killing the more than 90 people on board and hundreds inside the building. Between 10,000 and 14,000 people were in the process of evacuating both the north and south towers when, at 9:03 a.m., highjackers sent United Airlines Flight 175 into floors 75 to 85 of the south tower, killing everyone on board and hundreds more inside the building.

Then-President George W. Bush was in Florida when he got the news and at 9:30 a.m. broadcast to the country that terrorists had attacked New York City. Minutes later, a plane crashed into the west side of the Pentagon in Washington D.C., killing 59 aboard the plane and 125 people inside the building.

At 9:59 a.m., the south tower collapsed into rubble and half an hour later, the north tower fell, bringing to an end the lives of thousands, including Jim Sands.

“I couldn’t believe what I saw,” said Jennifer. “It was like the end of the world. I remember frantically trying to contact him, to get in touch with him, to call him. I called his cell phone, his pager, his office phone. I could not get through to him. I never received a call from him. I didn’t know if he was trying to call and couldn’t. I don’t know anything about what his last moments were like, but then at 10:29 a.m., Tower One collapsed and I knew it was over. I knew he never could have gotten out of the building alive. I knew he never could have survived it. Life as I knew it at that very moment was over. My whole world came crashing down with those towers and I was left with a broken heart, broken dreams and a broken faith. Fortunately, my story does not end there.”

Read the full story in today's issue of The Salem Leader.


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