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Cape Fear Voices/The Teen Scene

Cape Fear Voices/The Teen Scene

Cape Fear Voices/The Teen Scene

Stories of a Day to Remember

Photo by Pixabay

It’s hard to imagine that this marks the 22nd anniversary of that beautiful but tragic day on September 11, 2001. That day is permanently emblazoned into the memories of everyone who was over the age of 10 on that day. It’s going down as one of those iconic days that forever changed life as we knew it. It fits among, “Remember the Alamo,” “Remember Pearl Harbor,” “Hiroshima and Nagasaki,” “Kennedy Assassinated,” and others as “life-changing events.”

We are encouraged every day to remember our past. You know that old saying about those who don’t remember the past are almost duty-bound to repeat those mistakes. We love to remember the heroic sacrifices made by our military, our first responders, and our community leaders who work tirelessly to make life as enjoyable as possible.

Sometimes it’s interesting to see what others were doing on those really big days.  We know our story and think nothing of it until we become aware of what others were doing and going through on the same day at the same time in different parts of the world.

Here are a few stories we received that we wanted to share with our readers.

“My husband, Jack, and I were leaving our weekly Kiwanis Club Meeting and were headed to Home Depot to purchase supplies to build our Taj Mahal of Chicken Coops. We turned on the truck radio and heard the awful news! We were devastated.” Nan York, Leland

 “On 9/10, I was giving a talk for the University of Arkansas in Little Rock. I got up the next day, got a ride to the airport, and expected to board my plane back to Raleigh. I wondered why there were no cars at the airport. I went up to a police officer and he told me that the airport was closed and no planes were flying because of the 9/11 events. It was a good thing that I had friends in Little Rock because it took me four days to leave Little Rock.” Frank Stritter, Oak Island

“It was just another day on the campus of UNCW.  I was on the backstretch of my senior year at UNCW.  Being that it was a pretty warm day in September, I thought I would stop by the student union to grab a cold drink before hitting my second class.  As I approached, I noticed many people were bunched together around the several televisions in the room.  With curiosity, I approached a television to see the first tower on fire. People were teared up some crying frantically and saying, ‘I have family that works in NYC.’  At the time and after seeing a video replay, I assumed it was a bad accident involving an erroneous airplane.  Then, a second plane hit the other tower and another hit the Pentagon.  Shortly after, I knew this was a terrorist act of some kind.” Shawn Black-Principal, Leland Middle School.

“I was a Junior in high school in the hall between classes and heard a jumbled account of a plane crash in New York from a classmate known for being a bit excitable. Many other students seemed unbothered but there was a certain panic in his voice that made me want to check out what was happening. I went to my next class early where the teacher, one of my football coaches, had the news on. He told me that the WTC had been hit but that was all he knew. We watched the news together for a few minutes in silence until we saw the second plane hit live. It became clear at that moment that the unthinkable had happened, we were under attack. All classes were cancelled for the day but it was determined that we would stay in school. We just progressed through our schedule for the day but watched the news and talked.

“After school, as my football team gathered for practice our coach told us to take a knee. He recognized the collective trauma of the day and asked us if we wanted to practice or if we wanted to go home and be with our families. As we looked to our Captains for guidance, the most vocal of the bunch said, ‘If we go home the  terrorists win.’ It became clear at that moment, and in the days and weeks following the attack, that the terrorists did not win. The American spirit rose above the ashes, as it always does.” Bill McHugh, Leland Town Council

“The day began like many along Colorado’s Front Range—warm and inviting for my customary early morning walk around my neighborhood to and from a city park. I was out the door while my husband dozed. After walking several blocks, I noticed the odd behavior of people and traffic. A hush permeated the air as vehicles stopped and people vanished from the streets. I continued my walk, arriving home to, ‘Nancy! I am glad you are home. You are not going to believe what has happened. A plane crashed into the World Trade Center.’ Before replying, I  glanced at the TV.  A second plane crashed into the second tower. We looked at each other and said in unison, ‘We are being attacked!’ Horrendous images of the series of airborne terrorist attacks filled the TV screen, and to this day we mourn innocent lives lost on a gorgeous September day along our East Coast.” Nancy Bryans, Brunswick Forest

“On 9/11/01, I was at home doing some basic house cleaning.  My daughter-in-law who knew that I never watched TV during the day, called and told me to turn on the TV. When I did, it was just in time to see the second plane hit the towers.  I sat down and watched in absolute horror.  In my younger days, we never viewed violence or war, or anything else that might have offended us.  After Vietnam, the publicity of war and violence was wide open.  I have to think that we were probably better off not seeing such graphic views, but it probably was good to see the towers come down on 9/11.  When the same people tried to take down the towers about ten years before by blowing something up underneath and failing, I really did not get in touch with what was happening.  On 9/11, I stayed with the TV all day and it became very real as did all the days that followed.”  Maryann Nunnally, Porters Neck

“I was working at NASA Langley, in Hampton, VA as a STEM Program Director.   Everyone was rushing to the TVs to see and hear what all the commotion was about. Once I saw the towers were attacked, I immediately called to check on my sister who lived near the towers. (She was at the dentist further away.) One of my son’s friends, who I know, worked up high in one of the towers but had a meeting at another location, so she was spared.”   Paula Tucker-Hogan, Leland

 “I was enjoying a vacation on the beach in Jamaica. I saw what I thought was a fight with 40-50 people gathering around the Tiki bar. Being the nosey sort, I meandered that way to take a look. By the time I got close enough to see the TV, the second tower was hit. I thought it was a fake but I soon caught on that it was real and that I am stuck in Jamaica. All the foreigners were able to leave but Americans were stuck. I wasn’t able to get out until Sunday (5 days later.) The resort was like a ghost town. One room was set up for Americans while the few foreigners who stayed had the beach to themselves. When I arrived back at the high school political science class that I was teaching that year, the students reminded me of what I had told them the week before. ‘Every generation has had to defend American liberties. I hope your turn doesn’t come too soon.’”  Gerald Decker, Leland

 “I was at work and had no access to a radio or TV.  My husband called to tell me the news.  I didn’t see the devastation on television until almost 6:00 p.m.  I couldn’t believe what I was seeing and I realized that the terrible stories I heard that I thought were exaggerated were, unfortunately, true.”  Jan Morgan-Swegle, Leland

“I was at my desk working on some financial reports at the IBM plant in Essex Junction, Vermont when I noticed a lot of commotion in the hallway outside my office. We had TVs placed around the building for emergency use or important communication that needed to take place to the entire plant that was normally turned off. Security activated the TV’s so we could see what was happening in NYC. All gathered around couldn’t believe what they were seeing on the TV; everyone was shocked. I later got a call from the fire department as we were asked to pack a bag and prepare for stand-by duty to support New York state departments as they “moved up” to support NYC and surrounding areas that had committed resources to the city. We never moved up but remained on standby that night until things were brought under control. I had a fellow firefighter that I knew died in the south tower, and we had family members who worked in Manhattan that caused a lot of angst for all of us until they were located and we knew they were safe. Terrible day.” Jim Buell (Retired Firefighter), Leland 

“I was nine years old in the 4th grade at school when 9/11 happened. We were watching the news on TV in our classroom. All the teachers were upset and panicking and I didn’t really understand why. The one thing I remember the most was when I got home from school, my dad was home. He usually got home from work a few hours after I got home from school. I later learned that my dad, who worked in D.C. a few blocks from the Pentagon, was evacuated from his building and snipers were on every single rooftop. He ran over 10 blocks to get to the train station in order to get home and he told me it was just complete chaos with everyone trying to get out of the city.” Meredith Zell, Cedar Grove Middle School, Language Arts Teacher

“It is surreal to think, it has been 22 years since the horrific September 11th attacks. It still feels like yesterday. We can all vividly remember where we were and how we felt when we heard the news and saw what had happened.  I was on the school bus on the way to The Forum School in Waldwick New Jersey, the school I was attending at the time.  My bus driver Mario usually had music on the radio but that morning he had Spanish news on instead.  Nobody thought there was any reason behind it, but once we got inside the school, the entire mood of the day altered dramatically.  Once everyone had walked into the classroom, my classmate Andrew Coraci told everyone what had happened.  I can still vividly remember the shock and fear on everyone’s faces when we heard the news.”  Brendan Connelly, Brunswick Forest

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About the Contributor
Gerald Decker, Founder, President
Gerald Decker is a 4-year Navy veteran with four tours to Vietnam between 1968-1971. Gerald earned a Master’s Degree from George Washington University. He worked for nine years as a U. S. Senate staffer after college and later as a Senior Manager for a small business lobby organization. Gerald also taught Political Science at the high school and college levels. He is a certified trainer in Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. Gerald founded Athens/Oconee Adult Baseball, Decker Diamonds, the Leland VFW Post 12196, and Teen Scene, Inc. In addition to his work with Teen Scene, Gerald is founder and Past Commander of the Leland VFW Post 12196. The Post was the Mayor's Choice of Citizen of the Year in 2020 and was ranked #5 in the nation for 2022-2023. Since 2020, Gerald has co-written two books. The first was about his good friend and WWII veteran Alex Moskowitz. The second was published by Teen Scene, Inc. in Oct. 2021, entitled "The Great Lockdown of 2020: An Anthology." Gerald is still married to his high school girlfriend (55 years) and has two children and three grandchildren. Following a 15-year hobby of playing catcher in a men’s adult fast-pitch baseball league, his hobbies now include heating pads, grandchildren, and genealogy. Teen Scene and VFW are not hobbies. They are passions.

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