On Sept. 11, 2001, we sent our reporters throughout the community to listen to people’s thoughts on what they were seeing on television. I tried to capture those emotions in this column:
By Rick Outzen
Independent Florida Sun, 9/14/01
In a horrific succession of destruction, we were rocked from our safe world, Tuesday, September 11th, 2001.
As we drove to work, dropped our children off at schools, prepared for a new day, terrorists crashed two planes into New York’s World Trade Center, collapsing the twin 110-story towers. Explosion rocked the Pentagon. Reports and rumors of other bombs and plane crashes pushed fear across the nation.
The immediate reaction of our leaders was to limit the damage and protect our people. Shocked officials evacuated the Capitol, White House, State Department, and other federal buildings. The National Park Service closed landmarks across the country, including the Washington Monument, Statue of Liberty, and the St. Louis Gateway Arch. In New York City, leaders closed the stock exchange and ordered the evacuation of offices along Time’s Square. All air traffic halted.
State officials closed the University of West Florida and Pensacola Junior College. Even Cordova and University [inaudible 00:01:07] voluntarily shut their doors. Schools postponed open houses. Churches and synagogues announced prayer services.
Northwest Floridians set glued to the television screen watching the horror unfold. Memories of Oklahoma City and the earlier World Trade Center bombings, and even Pearl Harbor, surfaced. Phone lines frayed as families tried to reach loved ones across the nation. People checked flight lists frantically hoping every family member and friend was safe. Too many were not.
For those interviewed by the Independent Florida Sun staff, the initial reaction was disbelief. This could not be happening. After years of novels, movies, and television plots about terrorist attacks in the United States, the reality of the destruction was overwhelming. The questions — How? Why? and who?—were perched on everyone’s lips.
The next emotion expressed was anger. We cannot tolerate terrorism. Justice must be served. The innocent avenged, the guilty punished. Talk of war and retaliation, even assassination of the leaders responsible unraveled as our riders polled the community.
As we went to press, many of the facts surrounding the devastation and destruction of Tuesday, September 11th, 2001 were unknown. The death toll is still being tallied. We do not know all the names of those lost. There’s no way to foresee if this tragedy will be recalled by future generations with the same sense of horror as Pearl Harbor, December 7th, 1941, nor can we predict how this epic catastrophe will affect this nation’s foreign policy in our lives. Will there be a war and with whom?
What we do know is that our nation will endure this trial. Our leaders will rise to the challenge. Our people will answer the call for action.
The United States is imperfect, but it is resilient. We’re a hodgepodge of races, cultures, heritages, and beliefs, but we will unite for any fight that threatens our nation, families, and lives. It will be a futile error to assume that we as a nation do not resolve to see justice served.
Our brief history as a nation is filled with many challenges. We fought the world’s super power of the 18th century, Great Britain, for our freedom. We repelled them from our borders in the War of 1812. We endured a civil war and fought tyranny in two world wars. We survived the Cold War and came out the victor. We shall not fold up because of this senseless terrorist attack.
We will stand courageously, defiantly and united, and we shall prevail.