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Saturday, Apr. 30, 2016

9/11 memories, observances shared locally

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The front of Shuee & Sons on the west side of the courthouse square in Greencastle captures the spirit of the 10th anniversary observance of the Sept. 11 attack on America.
Sept. 11, 2001 began like most other days in the Banner Graphic newsroom 10 years ago or more.

A small but dedicated staff of reporters and editors were focused on their stories about local school boards, city meetings, Putnam Scanner details and the like.

At a time when the Internet was still an oddity and dial-up ruled the world, there was but one computer terminal dedicated to the World Wide Web in the entire newsroom.

There was no big-screen TV on the wall (still isn't actually, it's a 20-inch, non-HD model). There seemed little need for us to be plugged into what was going on in the world other than Putnam County around us.

Instead, we learned of one of the most significant events in U.S. history from the truck driver who used to pick up the Brazil Times newspapers after the morning press run to transport them back to Clay County. He called upstairs from the pressroom to tell me he'd heard a plane had flown into the side of the World Trade Center.

Immediately my mind went to the notion of some small, private plane. A sightseeing craft, no doubt. The significance hadn't hit home.

By the time it did, and we had dragged the old portable black-and-white TV out of the publisher's office and balanced it atop old clip-art ad books, the second plane had already slammed into the other tower.

America was under attack. Right there in our newsroom and your living room.

None of us had ever experienced anything like that before. Not Pearl Harbor with the severe time difference and radio-era-only coverage. Not even the JFK assassination and its 1963 black-and-white TV coverage (incidentally, I was at lunch in grade school when that happened and I'll always remember they still made us take a math test after announcing the president was dead!).

My other distinct memory in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks was my stepson Sam coming home from middle school in an absolutely horrible mood. It was his 12th birthday, and nobody but nobody was paying attention to him.

We were glued to the TV when he interrupted our silence with: "Is this all that's going to be on TV?"

But when you're 12 you don't really understand the significance of something like 9/11. After 10 years I guess I forgive him.

* * *

Meanwhile, on the Banner Graphic website in recent weeks we have been asking readers for their comments and memories. We'll share a couple here.

Andrew Houck, a 1996 Greencastle High School graduate was in Paris at the time and still lives in Frances. He was there on Sept. 11, 2001 as a college graduation present for himself.

"It has been 10 years," he said, "and it still feels like last week."

Houck recounted where he was when he found out about the attack.

"I had met some friends in Paris and all of us were staying in a little dive not far from the Eiffel Tower," he recalled. "Two of us were in a café/bar, around 2 p.m. or so, speaking English, when the owner came up and asked, in French, 'You're Americans, right?'

"When we answered, 'Yeah, why?' she said, 'Come look at this. Something's happened in the U.S. Your country is under attack!'"

Houck and his friends stood in front of a TV and saw one of the World Trade Center towers aflame and witnessed the second plane hit.

"My French was OK at that point in time," he said. "I remember having trouble understanding everything that was said. The most confusing detail was that although I could see New York on the screen, I heard journalists talking about the White House and the Pentagon, and then, later something about Pennsylvania."

Houck went back to his "cheap, run-down" hotel and stared up at the TV in the lobby.

"Every few minutes, I would re-attempt to call my parents in Greencastle, but to no avail since the entire transatlantic communications network was saturated to capacity. When I eventually got ahold of my parents, they recounted how Greencastle was taking the news: General panic, gas station lines for miles, price-gouging for survival 'necessities' ... I wished that I could have been part of that, since my heart was still there in central Indiana.

"What happened, though," Houck assessed, "was that when I came home the following summer, everything had changed. Bin Laden had only succeeded in one thing: The American people hadn't been so united since after Pearl Harbor."

* * *

Tina from Putnam County said she had just put her children on the school bus and was headed to a meeting at the PSI building on Indianapolis Road in Greencastle.

"While driving, it came across the radio that an airplane had just hit the twin towers," she said. "At first, I also thought it was an accident but the more I heard, the more concerned I became.

"I remember that I was unable to focus on anything other than the twin towers. I wondered all day if my children were safe in school. I actually just wanted to go get them from school and keep them safe with me.

"People were flipping out and you couldn't get into a gas station in Greencastle. I was unable to make it to a night class in Terre Haute because the lines were so long at the stations. I'll always remember that day.

"It seems to play like slow motion in my mind," Tina concluded.

* * *

Another local resident who worked at the Indianapolis airport offered unique perspective.

"I remember 9/11 very well," he said. "The day started off normal at work, then I received a call over the two-way radio to clear our ramp at the airport. Scrambled my available equipment operators and moved all inert equipment behind the postal hub.

"I marshaled seven passenger aircraft that were ordered down into parking spots on our ramp without being able to talk to the pilots, utilizing hand signals and light sticks until available ramps at the terminal came open.

"I remember I didn't find out the severity of what was going on until I was finished and the ramp was again cleared."

Even more memorable to him, however, "was the day aircraft were allowed to fly again and the first aircraft went over my softball tournament. All heads on the field and in the stands were at full attention watching Air Force jets flying overhead."

* * *

In observance of the 10th anniversary of Sept.11, a special remembrance ceremony will be conducted at 4 p.m. Sunday at the bandshell in Greencastle's Robe-Ann Park. Everyone is invited and encouraged to attend.

The event, which will last approximately 45 minutes, will include performances by various choirs, reflections from first-responders, and a moment of silence. District 44 State Rep. Jim Baird and Mayor Sue Murray will address the gathering.

In the event of rain, the program will be moved to Kresge Auditorium in DePauw University's Performing Arts Center. If the program is outdoors, spectators are urged to bring lawn chairs to ensure comfortable seating.

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Thanks for the patriotic display Shuee and Sons!

A very nice tribute.

-- Posted by dodgers on Sat, Sep 10, 2011, at 8:56 AM

No thank you is great enough for Shuee and Sons of their heart and desire to do something. Truly shows your 'home town heart' and dedication to the community. Amazing...just simply amazing.

-- Posted by smltwngrl on Sun, Sep 11, 2011, at 1:23 PM


-- Posted by Michele1953 on Mon, Sep 12, 2011, at 9:47 AM

Unfortunately that wasn't a great day for me either as it was the day of my mother's funeral! A bright blue and sunny sky that day, but one filled with sadness!

-- Posted by jennikft@hotmail.com on Tue, Sep 13, 2011, at 8:18 PM

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