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Looking back at the September 11 attacks

Editor’s note: While Patty Kimerer is on leave, we present this Classic Kimerer column first published Sept. 16, 2001, five days after terrorists hijacked aircraft to attack America.

Reflections on Sept. 11, 2001: One mother’s story

I will never forget the day. It was April 19, 1995, and I was working in the programming department of WKBN-TV when an urgent message from CBS alerted us that the network would be interrupting regularly scheduled programs indefinitely to cover the bombing of the Murrah Federal building in Oklahoma City.

It was unspeakable. In the days that followed, I sobbed uncontrollably at the images of innocent children and unsuspecting businessmen and women who’d been ruthlessly murdered by an evil monster.

Barring personal loss of family members, of course, the Oklahoma City bombing was the absolute worst experience of my life. I remember thinking, hoping rather, “This must be the most horrific thing I will witness in my lifetime.”

And it was … until Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001.

On a normal morning, I would have already popped a “Barney” video into our VCR or flipped the television to the Nickelodeon channel. But for some reason, I was watching the “Today” show when I heard someone say that there’d been reports of an aircraft crashing into one of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in Manhattan.

I had been in the kitchen making coffee and thought I had misunderstood the account. Disbelief turned to utter astonishment when I curled my head around the corner of the family room and peeked at the television in time to see live coverage of a second plane plunging headlong into the other tower.

As I watched the events surrounding Tuesday’s terrorist attacks in Manhattan and Washington, D.C., develop, the dismay and pure dread that filled my heart and soul were unparalleled. Like much of America and indeed, the world, I sat before my television, transfixed by the catastrophe strewn about the country by spineless, faceless, hijacking, suicidal militants.

My poor son. All he wanted was to watch that big, purple dinosaur dance around and yet I couldn’t tear myself away from the breaking news of the day. Nor did he understand Mommy’s intermittent crying for the next several days as my mind processed the inhuman reality of lost life.

Not only would we not be watching “Barney” that day, but also little else about our lives would likely ever be the same.

Like so many people across the country, I felt completely helpless yet I wanted to do something. Anything. I found myself calling my parents, siblings, in-laws and friends. We wept together as we flip-flopped from one television news report to another, comparing stories and trying to console one another.

I decided that I wanted to attend one of the many prayer services available Tuesday night, so I joined my mother and sister at a mass at St. Christine’s Church in Austintown. The place was packed with distraught local residents searching for answers.

“I believe so many people turned out because they needed to do something and this provided them the opportunity to pray together as a community,” said Monsignor David Rhodes, pastor of St. Christine’s.

Rhodes said he believed the church was filled to capacity (approximately 1,100) because the enormity of Tuesday’s disaster made it seem personal to millions of Americans, even here in the Valley.

“I just know that this can help those victims’ families like nothing else can as they sit and wait for word about their loved ones,” said Michelle Coppola, who attended Tuesday’s Mass and planned to go to another at Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Church in her hometown of Lowellville on Wednesday night, as well.

“No one’s in a hurry to leave church tonight,” Mom noted, when we filed out quietly.

As I drove home, I realized Michelle and Monsignor Rhodes and the rest of us were right, since every single church parking lot I passed Tuesday evening was completely filled. But Valley reaction to the terrorism did not stop there.

I spoke to Jackie Wolfe, director of volunteers at the Warren office of the American Red Cross, who informed me that literally hundreds of locals were on a quest to offer some sort of relief to victims. Even school children called in to see how they could help and people, in general, wanted to know the best course of action.

Wolfe added that many area doctors, nurses and other medical professionals had contacted the Red Cross to inquire about volunteering their services.

The Internet proved to be an invaluable tool after the attack, as panic-stricken Americans struggled to locate missing loved ones and some found their only contact with them solely through e-mail, as phone circuits were over-loaded by hundreds of thousands of calls.

The Internet continues to serve purposefully. The International Red Cross Web site, www.redcross.org, offers local information about blood drives, such as the one today in the Sharon High School gymnasium, one tomorrow set for 1 to 7 p.m. at the Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Austintown and another noon to 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Austintown Red Cross Blood Donation center in Austintown.

There are many other sites available, such as www.helpline.org, which gives hot links to associations such as Catholic Charities, the National Organization for Victim Assistance, the ABC Blood Banks and more organizations trying to help victims of last week’s terrorism. A typical Internet search yields hundreds of options for users, so surf until you find the charity which best suits you.

As is the case with that bleak day in April 1995, I don’t think any of us who have observed the atrocity of last week will ever forget it. Personally, I choose to cling to the simple words of a well-known hymn that I sang in church Tuesday night as the tears I tried so hard to fight slipped silently down my cheeks. Though I’ve sung them so many times before, I doubt they’ll ever be as poignant as they were on Sept. 11, 2001:

“Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.”

Contact Kimerer at pkimerer@zoominternet.net.

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