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Some reflections on 9-11 anniversary

September 11, 2011
By ESTHER MCCOY - Staff writer , The Herald-Star

Lamont and I purchased a memorial edition book called "Tragedy" when visiting Ground Zero in New York in 2009. We were with the Gable Foundation bus tour at the time.

It was a recounting, with very disturbing photos, of the tragic events happening in the United States on Sept. 11, 2001.

Today is the 10th anniversary of the day when thousands were killed, and property destruction soared to the billions. There are many memorial services being held to remember those lost in the three locations and the Shanksville, Pa., crash.

Article Photos

VISIT?GROUND?ZERO — From left, Jackie Rocchi and Nan Mattern, Gable Foundation tour directors, with a sightseer, stand before the steel skeleton building going up at Ground Zero in 2009.
Esther McCoy

I'm proud of our Smithfield Fire Department for having "9-11-01 Not Forgotten" on their bulletin board all week. In the club house is another sign with the same "not forgotten" along with the number 343 added.

Tyler Boyd, 20, department member, explained this was the number of firemen lost in trying to save others. He was joined by Justin Emery, 19, in explaining that they were in elementary school on 9-11.

"The teacher at our Kentucky school came in and said, 'It's a sad day for America,'" he remarked.

Emery said he was at Smithfield Elementary where they were told what had occurred. "I did not understand it then, and later I could not believe it," he said. Both admitted being frightened over what was happening.

George Harrah, Smithfield council member, who served in Vietnam, said it was a disturbing time for him. His most important impression of 9-11 was his wife, Barbara, a nurse receiving advanced training at Kent State, being called to New York to assist survivors and help with searching for the missing.

Robert Shaffer, retired from the U.S. Air Force, joining after graduating from Buckeye North High School, and now an instructor with the USAF Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape School near Spokane, e-mailed me his thoughts.

He was in the middle of the Hoh National Rain Forest in Forks, Wash., conducting jungle, river and rafting training for 30 students, with only one satellite telephone. "The medic heard the news on the radio. I was in shock thinking about the young people there in the wilderness who might have family in New York City or aboard one of the planes. I let those who needed to, borrow the satellite phone to call home," he said.

After hours of trying to contact Fairchild AFB, Shaffer talked to people in charge and was ordered to continue training but institute counter-terrorist procedures as best as possible. It was another five days before they saw the news, making them resolved to do whatever was necessary to protect our country.

"It brought us together as a nation. It's just too bad many have such short memories, though. I guess the feelings were the same as the 'Greatest Generation' experienced when Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor," he said.

Todd McHugh, formerly of Smithfield and now a resident of California, said he was preparing for work when the plant operator called and asked about a procedure for the end of the world. "Being early and knowing him as a jokester, I said, 'Well then close the doors and go home' but he didn't laugh."

"No really, it's like the end of the world. Turn on the television to see." I saw the tower in flames, and as we talked, the second plane crashed. We had procedures for catastrophes, so I rushed to work, and we secured the area in the event this was an actual invasion and awaited further directions from our corporation," he related.

John Borkowski, another former area resident but now from Kirtland, said he was helping his neighbor and a back hoe operator install a drain pipe. "He went into the house for coffee and came running out saying two planes hit the Twin Towers and another had crashed in Pennsylvania. We went in to watch, and I didn't have a clue as to what was going down. I settled down to accept the story the news media gave us but since then, I've sorted out what I think is truth and what is fiction," he said.

Howard McClure, a Marine, said he was between jobs and stopped at the Smithfield Hardware and saw the second plane hit the tower. "I thought it was a re-enactment of the first tower hit," he said.

Beverly Kaufman of Bloomingdale was at work in the Trinity West Medical Center recovery room. She learned about it when she went to the lounge, where a television was showing the disaster. "I couldn't believe it," she said.

Ray Piergallini and wife, Lucille, were watching television. "I thought it was fake at first. I thought something like that could never be real here," he said.

Don Beckett was at the Smithfield Christian Church, where he re-winds the seven-day clock each week, and didn't know anything about any of the hits until he got back home in Cadiz. "I was just sick," he said.

Manuel "Butch" Garcia, Air Force, was helping put a porch on a trailer, working with Miller Construction, when the owner came out and alerted them. "We watched the second hit while standing in the doorway of the trailer," he said.

Jefferson County Veteran Association Commander Bill Smythe said he immediately thought we were at war when he saw that the tower was hit. He was in his front yard when a neighbor told him to go turn his television on.

"I was devastated over the loss and later when President George Bush came to New York and stood at Ground Zero, I could see the look of anguish on his face."

Members of the Jefferson County Veterans Association were asked their thoughts at the Sept. 7 meeting. Tony Phillippi, Army, was at work and first thought it was an accident. That is until the second one hit. "Then I wondered what would happen next," he said.

Ed Waldman said his daughter called from Nebraska and told him "Dad, planes had hit the towers. I can't understand it. They taught them to fly but not to take off or land." That was before realizing the enormity of the situation.

Charles Strizak, Army/ American Legion 10th District commander, came home from midnight shift at Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel, laid on the couch and fell asleep while watching television.

"When I awakened, I saw a plane crashing into the tower. I thought it was a weird movie at first. I was shocked to realize it was real, and I didn't sleep the rest of the day."

Al D'Anniballe, Navy, was getting a hair cut and thought it was an accident at first, until the second plane hit. "Then I thought it was the start of World War III," he said.

Frank Santa, Navy, worked afternoon shift and watched it unfold on TV. "I was shocked and thought the whole country might be under attack and plunged into another war ... and then the war came to pass," he said.

Calvin Mayle, Marine, World War II veteran, was heading home from a friend's house. He heard it on the car radio and broke every law for driving to get home. "I was so upset," he said.

Bill Sanders, Army, World War II vet, was with his wife on the way to an Army reunion in Des Moines. "We stopped in Ames to eat and were unaware of the attack. Needless to say, many thoughts crossed our minds, including whether the reunion would go on. It did but was quite somber, and there were worries about our families' welfare," he said.

My hubby, Lamont, Air Force and member of the Jefferson County Veterans Association, wrote that he walked into the office of Dr. Krishan Aggarwal and saw it on television. Nurses Bea and Diane didn't bother to tease him about the Steelers vs. Browns that day.

And I might say, that I was at work and immediately wanted to know if my family was safe. I started dialing the phone and getting upset because I had forgotten Lamont was at the doctor's and not at home. Likewise, our son, Larry, did not answer and my buddy, Kathy, was asleep.

I didn't have my cell phone and could not call the other sons who are long distance or my friend, Florence. But I learned that she was up in a closet giving it a cleaning then turned around and saw it on television. I'm glad she did not fall from the shock.

(McCoy, a resident of Smithfield, is a staff columnist and food editor for the Herald-Star and the Weirton Daily Times. She can be contacted at

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