Weatherford Democrat

September 11, 2011

We shall not forget

A tribute to 9/11

Sally Sexton
Weatherford Democrat

WEATHERFORD — Today we honor the memory of a tragic event that changed America forever. Ten years ago, terrorists hijacked four passenger jets, American Airlines Flight 11, United Airlines Flight 175, American Airlines Flight 77 and United Airlines Flight 93, crashing them into the World Trade Center towers, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania, killing almost 3,000 people. The incident had a dramatic impact on the lives of all Americans, in one form or another.

Below, residents of Parker County weigh in on that fateful day in our country’s history.



Elaine Vandagriff

Weatherford

I never had the opportunity to go to Washington, D.C. ,or see the Statue of Liberty. In September 2001, I talked with my friends, James and Jan May, and decided to go because of the weather.

We took Southwest Airlines, renting a car to use the time we would be there, and stayed with one of my former students and his family. Their home was just in Maryland, not far from Washington, D.C.

The morning after arriving, we decided to go on to New York. We packed and were ready when James’ daughter called his cell phone and asked if we were watching television.

He answered calmly, “No. Why?” She told him to go see and hung up.

We went into the kitchen and saw the TV just as a second plane crashed into the south tower of the World Trade Center. The other plane had already crashed and the north tower was in a blaze. We were all stunned and couldn’t believe what was happening.

Soon after, we saw another plane, but thought nothing of it. We then heard a loud blast and later saw an ominous, black cloud of smoke rising in the sky. The speaker on the car radio said the Pentagon had been hit, and that a plane had also gone down near Pittsburgh.

The president had ordered all planes to clear the skies and find a place to land. James got in touch with Southwest Airlines to see whether or not we could fly home, but they told us no.

If it had not been for Todd Beamer and Jeremy Glick, that plane would have hit the Capital and perhaps the White House. If it had, we might not be here.



Paul Foley, retired Army 1st Sgt.

Weatherford

The events of 9/11 united the country just as Pearl Harbor did, only the unity after 9/11 still remains. This was a catastrophe that we actually saw happen. Never before have we been attacked in this country.

It made us see that we were vulnerable, but we responded by sending a message to others that they didn’t want to wake the sleeping dog.



Douglas and Carla Kerr

Weatherford

There were many heroes of that horrible event. One of our favorites is our friend, John Lynch, a master ironworker by trade, employed for many years by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

His actual full-time assignment on Sept. 11, 2001, was president of the union representing the iron workers and such employed by the Port Authority.

Upon learning of the disaster, John called the shop and had a set of tanks and torches of his favorite types sent to the site for him to use. He suited up and joined the ranks of his colleagues desperately trying to penetrate the rubble to find survivors — or bodies — a task he pursued tirelessly for I don’t recall how many days.

We are proud to know John Lynch.



Don Kuehl

Glen Rose

Don Kuehl flew corporate jets for 20 years. Sunday, just two days before that fateful day, Kuehl, who was living in Aledo, was called to fly six passengers from Dallas Love Field to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., with first officer Jenny Chapman, for a few days of business.

“Tuesday morning, I was lying in bed drinking coffee when I saw the goings-on on the television,” Kuehl said. “Around noon, my passengers started calling me and asking me what was going on and asking for resolutions to the problem.”

After the planes hit the World Trade Center, air traffic completely stalled. The Federal Aviation Administration diverted all international flights, and domestic flights were instructed to land immediately at their current locations.

Kuehl spent the rest of Tuesday and most of Wednesday on the phone with the Flight Service Station, a source for filing flight plans and getting weather updates.

“The Flight Service Station told me that they were frustrated too, but that they could not accept any flight plans,” he said.

In the meantime, Hurricane Gabrielle had developed in the gulf and was making its way to Florida. Ironically, the imminent danger would prove to be a loophole for Kuehl and his passengers.

After speaking once more with the Flight Service, Kuehl was encouraged to list “hurricane repositioning” on his flight plan, requesting permission to move the plan due to the storm. Soon after, he received clearance to fly back to Dallas Thursday afternoon.

“When we got to the airport, there were about 20 other corporate jets trying to get out, but none of them had permission,” Kuehl said. “We flew back to Dallas and never heard another airplane in the air.

“I wasn’t really concerned because I figured being in the air was probably the safest place at that time.

“I had a job to do, and my utmost concern was to do that and get the passengers back safely.”



John Beauchamp, former Army specialist

Millsap

The events of Sept. 11 really hurt our economy. It took us until 2004 before we could get the economy rolling again. On top of that, two wars came out of the terrorist attacks, which was pretty bad.

We lost a lot of good boys, not just during the attacks, but another 6,000 and another 66,000 wounded in the wars.

I also think the government and the media made our people scared with the alerts. The increase in security was a good thing, but every morning you would wake up and see a red alert level, or an orange alert level.

It kept people worried and scared about what was going to happen from one minute to the next. They should have just let people go to work and do their jobs.