Sept. 11, 2001, lives on as a permanent memory for many, like the Dec. 7, 1941, bombing of Pearl Harbor does for older generations. Many have strong memories of where they were and what they were doing when they learned of the planes hitting the World Trade Center towers. Here are just excerpts of stories from 9-11 shared by our readers:
Donna Casino of St. Anne
Donna Casino arrived at 7 a.m. that day at O’Hare International Airport, where 12 members of her family were leaving at 9 a.m. to vacation in California. She watched as one family member received calls about the World Trade Center and their flight schedule changed from “on time” to “delayed.”
“Soon all the TV monitors in the airport were turned off and people started making a mad rush for the public phones,” she said. “It wasn’t very long before an announcement came across that all flights in the United States were grounded and we were to go to baggage claim to get luggage and leave the airport.
“That’s when it got chaotic with so many people trying to get their things and leave. We had to wait until we got home to see for ourselves on TV the horror that had invaded our homeland.”
Kristine Condon of Homewood
Kristine Condon arrived to teach her computer course at Kankakee Community College when she was met with students clamoring for information. She said she shared with them everything she had seen or heard from the news but the school didn’t have TVs on campus for students to stay informed.
Students petitioned the college president for that technology, now a standard of the campus.
“It was student advocacy in action, and it was an important reminder of why we teach in the first place,” she said.
Rose Walls of Kankakee
Passing through a hallway at Je-Neir Elementary School in Momence where she worked as a SPEC coordinator, Walls was informed that a plane had crashed into one of the Twin Towers. Meanwhile, her grandson, Trystan, was flying to Birmingham, Alabama.
Efforts were underway by many to try and track Trystan’s flight. Fortunately, he arrived safely in Birmingham Airport and his mom later took him to school, she said. When he tried to tell the students about his experience, no one would believe him.
Megan Kerulis of Wilmington
Just a kid at the time of the attacks, Megan Kerulis remembers not knowing what happened until she got home from school and listened to the answering machine.
“There was a voicemail on there and someone was talking about people dying, New York being attacked, and I didn’t understand since I was so young,” she said.
Her mom started crying and Kerulis asked what was wrong. “She said, ‘Megan, something really bad happened in the world today,’” Kerulis said. “I still remember her saying that to me really vividly to this day.”
A social science teacher at Bradley-Bourbonnais Community High School, Mike Lehning was in his classroom that morning when “suddenly teachers were going to other classrooms.”
They told him to turn on the TV. He did and they watched as the second plane hit the second tower.
Later that day, between 3 and 4 p.m., Lehning was outside when he saw a large plane pass overhead with an escort of two or three fighter jets.
“It was flying very low, lower than normal,” Lehning said, adding that all air travel was grounded by the FAA at the time. “It was surreal. There was no doubt in my mind it was Air Force One flying back to Washington [D.C.].”
Andrea Keith of Bradley
Living in Kenwood, Mich., at the time, Andrea Keith remembers a deeply personal connection to the day’s happenings. She just learned the day before she and her husband were expecting their second child and had plans to share the news with others at her church that morning. When she saw reports of the crashes on the TV, Keith immediately thought about her brother and his family who were en route to Italy. They arrived safely, but a week later, Keith miscarried.
“I don’t blame the emotion of 9/11 for the science of my body, nor am I ashamed to admit I was relieved at the time to not bring another life into the world,” she said.
As the country regrouped, so did Keith’s family. They had a daughter the following summer and later visited the Pentagon memorial together.
“Hopefully, all of the kids born before and after the 9/11 tragedy will know the realness and never let history repeat itself,” she said.
Read the full memories shared by our readers here.