Crash site Shanksville Penn 9/11

Items of remembrance are laid among American flags at the Sept. 11, 2001 crash site of Flight 93 in Shanksville, Penn.

This column by Mona Weatherly was originally published in the Sept. 9, 2021 issue of the Custer County Chief.

On Sept. 11, 2001, I was working for Nebraska Book Company in Lincoln. As software trainers and installers, my co-workers and I traveled all over the U.S. and Canada and even to the U.S. Virgin Islands for our jobs.

I heard co-workers talking outside my office about a plane that had hit the World Trade Center in New York. I joined the conversation. Someone made a comment about some poor pilot being way off course. Someone else said maybe it was foggy.

I said, “Those Towers are tall enough, maybe they were in the clouds.” Someone else said they heard the weather was clear in New York.

When we heard that a second plane hit, I think we were stunned into silence, then someone said, “Two planes is not an accident.” Within moments, we all realized things that we took for granted as being safe and secure would never be 100 percent safe and secure again.

Twenty years ago, the Internet was not what it is today. A co-worker went home to get a TV. One of my most lasting memories of that day is watching, on a 5-inch black and white TV screen, the South Tower pancake downward in a matter of seconds.

I traveled a lot. In fact, I had returned at the end of July, along with about 40 others, from an arts and cultural trip of a lifetime to Moscow and St. Petersburg. We flew in and out of both La Guardia and JFK airports in New York. On the bus trips that took us in tunnels below the rivers between the airports, we pressed our faces against the windows and snapped pictures of the World Trade Center Towers seen from a far. Someone asked me after 9/11 what my first thoughts were when I heard about the attacks. I said, “I was glad I was home and not in a bus in that tunnel!” For surely, I thought, I would have gone mad!

More than any event, 9/11 changed my life. Never again would I carefreely board a plane. Never again would I fly without carefully scrutinizing my fellow passengers. Never again would I fly without remembering 9/11. More than any event in my life, 9/11 is my “What would I do?” moment.  What would I have done, if I had been on one of those planes? What would I have done if I had been on the top floors? What would I have done if I had been on the jet that ended up in a field in Shanksville, Penn?

The truest answer I can give is, “I don’t know.” With God’s blessing, no one will never have to find out again.

God bless the United State of America. May we never forget.

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