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9-11: We Remember

Today is the solemn twenty-second remembrance day of September 11, 2001, when 19 hijackers, all young adult males from the Middle East, took over four civilian jets and attacked innocent victims. The hijackers were all from the Afghanistan-based terror group al-Qaeda.

In total, 2,996 died that day. Most of the victims, carnage, and thus media attention were in New York City, where the World Trade Centers exploded into fireballs and later collapsed.

However, a third jet crashed into the Pentagon, home of the US Defense Department. Even in the years shortly after 9-11, there was much confusion about this attack. Many people, even Virginians, mistakenly believed that attack occurred in Washington DC, but that is not true. The Pentagon was built during WWII at the direction of President Franklin Roosevelt, and since the District was already too overbuilt to house such a huge complex, it was located in Arlington County, Virginia. So, even though the Pentagon is right across the Potomac River from the Washington Mall and Jefferson Memorial, the site of the third attack on 9-11 was on Old Dominion soil.

In the fourth attack, brave passengers on United Airlines Flight 93, having been warned by phone of the other assaults, put up a courageous fight and tried to wrest their plane back from the hijackers.

The passengers were unable to retake the plane, but in their valiant struggle, they caused the hijackers to crash the jet into a farm near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Although all were killed, at least that plane was kept from crashing into another iconic building, probably the US Capitol. That bold, sacrificial struggle from some of the passengers and crew members saved countless lives by sparing a fourth building from blowing up.

According to reports, one intrepid stewardess took hot water from the coffee maker to throw on the terrorists.

As some noted within just a year or two after 9-11, in the media coverage of that horrific day, many outlets left out the photos showing the fireballs in the WTC.

The reasons behind that decision are left to the readers to try to figure out.

However, at The Roanoke Star, we remember and honor those who lost their lives and loved ones that day, and the brave first responders who rushed toward danger, instead of away from it.

As a part of this memorial, we share the first-hand remembrances of a Roanoke Valley community member from that horrific day.

Cave Spring resident Dennis Woodson recalls the day clearly, because in a phone conversation around 11:00 am today, he said “Twenty-two years ago, at this exact time, we were waiting to get out of the Detroit Airport and find a hotel.” Below is his story:

“September 11th, 2001 was the day we were to leave Virginia for Taiwan where I planned to work for several years as a university English teacher. My wife, seven-year-old daughter, and I flew out of Richmond around 8:30 that morning, heading for Detroit where we were to change to our flight from the U.S. to Asia. Thankfully, the one and a half hour flight was uneventful, and we landed safely in Detroit around 10:00 a.m. When the plane came to a stop at the gate where we were to disembark, the pilot calmly made this short announcement, ‘There’s been some terrorist activity; it’s going to be an interesting day.’

“Only after we disembarked and entered the terminal did we passengers realize the gravity of his message. The videos playing on every TV monitor showed what had happened a couple of hours earlier. Everyone watched in utter disbelief at the visions of collapsing towers and a burning section of the Pentagon. When we finally regained some composure, we headed to our airline’s information desk to find out what to do next. We were informed that all flights were cancelled until further notice, and that we should arrange to leave the airport by ground travel or stay in a local hotel until flights resumed. Our check-on baggage would be held for us, but we would not have access to it.
“We were fortunate enough to get a room in a local hotel, so checked in there with our carry-on baggage. The sky was blue on this lovely September day, but the only things that flew around the Detroit airport for the next four days were birds. Finally, our carrier informed us that we would be able to leave on our Asian flight, so we boarded the second international flight out of Detroit International Airport after 9/11. Our extraordinary travel experience wasn’t over, however, because we arrived in Taipei airport on the eve of a typhoon that brought the worst flooding Taipei had experienced in 50 years!
“A dear friend who serves with Youth With A Mission picked us up from the airport and transported us to an apartment in Dan Shui [suburban Taipei] where we stayed for a few days until the storm subsided. Thankfully, the university I had interviewed with back in August hired me to teach English in their Language Center, and I spent the next five years doing that and having an enjoyable time living with my family in Taipei.”
Today Congressman Morgan Griffith (R-VA9), in a press release, related his memories of that fateful day.
“Today we remember and honor the innocent lives lost 22 years ago on September 11, 2001.
“I still remember exactly where I was that Tuesday morning. As I worked in my law office, my bookkeeper, Terry Haynie, told me that a plane had struck a Tower of the World Trade Center. We could not understand how a plane could have done such a thing by accident.  Then we watched live as the second plane crashed into the South Tower, and we knew the United States was under attack.
“We must never forget the 3,000 innocent Americans who died at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and on Flight 93, their lives stolen that fateful day.
“We also honor our first responders, who put themselves in harm’s way in an attempt to save their fellow Americans. On a day of unimaginable evil, we saw the best of what it means to be an American, making the ultimate sacrifice so that others might live. The heroes of that day proved that America will not be broken.
“On this 9/11, let us remember all who were lost, and resolve to never forget the tragedies of that day.”
For more about September 11, its causes and aftermath, read this blog.

Do you have a personal remembrance from 9-11 that you would like to share with The Roanoke Star reading community in a later article? If so, please send your story to [email protected].’

–Scott Dreyer



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