Every year, the City of Rio Rancho renews a vow, signed into proclamation by the mayor. The city, the proclamation says, will forever remember the events that took place on 9.11.2001. On Sunday, at Vista Verde Memorial Park, a holy ritual takes place, as it has every year since and will every year from now on. Rio Rancho remembered.
Here are the personal memories of some who will never forget that day.
When asked the “Where were you?” question, I don’t think there is a more impressionable event in my life that I recall more vividly than the images of the World Trade Center Towers collapsing shortly after the airliners struck the towers.
I remember exactly where I was, what I was doing and the immediacy I felt to get to a television so I could see for myself what I was hearing on the radio. I was driving to work, listening to the morning news, going about my “normal” day.
What we as a nation would witness that day would leave a lasting impression that we would remember for the rest of our lives. It is hard to believe that it has been 21 years since the events of Sept. 11, 2001. An entire generation has grown up post 9/11, which emphasizes the need to make sure our generation, and future generations, never forget the tragic and heroic events that occurred that day.
A phone call from my sister woke me up.
I had just settled into sleep after a long night shift in the ICU. She said, “get to a TV and turn it on. We are under attack in New York.” I walked out into my living room where the normal chaos of getting ready for school was in full swing, switched the channel from some before-school entertainment, and saw that a tower had been hit.
My husband at the time and I locked eyes. We couldn’t even fathom what was happening. We watched, and waited, and watched as the entire country shut down. Like waiting for the other shoe to drop. Where would it happen? When would it happen? Eventually, I had to return to bed and try and sleep before I returned to work that night. I didn’t sleep well, wondering how the world would be different when I woke up.
That night as I approached the VA hospital where I worked, I could feel the tension in the air. All doors were locked and we had to present badges and go to the main entrance. Security officers that were never visible before, were now at every entrance. Cement blocks the size of small cars had appeared near main entrances. Working in a federal building with vulnerable patients meant we were a higher level target. I’ll never forget the day our world changed and has never gone back.
Emergency room nurse
I was in the newsroom of the Grand Rapids Press in Grand Rapids, Mich. As a business reporter, I was working on stories when I noticed that the newsroom seemed empty. It wasn’t. They were all standing in front of the televisions we had in the newsroom to monitor news 24/7. I want over to see what was going on, just in time to see the second airliner crash into one of the towers. As a newsroom, we were shaken. So was I. Who would do this? Who could do this? And finally, how?
My assignment: Find business in Grand Rapids that had offices in the towers. Raymond James had offices near the two towers, so I called them. Everyone was safe, but they could see the attack.
The rest of the day was kind-of hazy, between phone calls and darting to the screens to watch what was going on. Somehow, it hadn’t dawned on me yet that we had been attacked. I couldn’t believe this would happen in the U.S.
I, like every other American, remember exactly where I was on Sept, 11, 2001.
I was actually asleep. We’d given birth to our daughter (Observer reporter, Michaela Helean.) She was only a couple of weeks old, so we were still in the midst of midnight feedings and sleepless nights. So she and I were asleep, while my husband was at work.
My phone rang, jolting me awake from that deep slumber after a long night.
When I answered I heard Kevin on the other end of the line asking me, “What happened? Somebody said something about… ‘they got the Pentagon’?” I was confused. I had no idea what he was talking about. He asked me to turn on the news. So I picked up our sleeping, peaceful baby and went downstairs to turn on the TV.
I watched in horror as the news anchors reported what had happened so far. Both towers in New York had been hit by planes, and both were being evacuated. Another plane had hit the Pentagon. It was horrifying to watch as, a short time later, the south tower collapsed, and then later still, the north tower.
I will never forget the feeling of devastation and worry about what kind of world we’d brought our daughter into. We have worked every day to help her find the good in the world, and to make a difference where she can. It was a pivotal moment for all of us as individuals, families, communities, and as a nation. A moment that proved we can come together for good, in spite of how difficult things can be.
1st Grade Teacher, RRPS
President, Rio Rancho School Employees Union
Like most people “of a certain age,” I’ll never forget where I was on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001: at work at the Observer, then on Sara Road.
Publisher Mike Ryan told me he’d just heard, or maybe seen, an airplane hit one of the towers at the World Trade Center, so I went into the back room to watch – in time to see the second plane hit.
I had two immediate concerns: My daughter worked at Simon & Schuster in Manhattan, first of all, and then how many Rio Ranchoans with their roots in the Big Apple were to be affected?
Two years later, visiting that daughter who lived in Brooklyn, I walked across the Brooklyn Bridge with a chance to visit Ground Zero, but those horrific memories were still too close to me.
It was such an ordinary morning.
I was in the kitchen drinking coffee. My son, Schuyler, was in the living room watching The Today Show. I headed back to my bedroom to get ready for work.
Schuyler’s voice stopped me, interrupting that ordinary morning: “Mom, have you seen this?”
I backed up. On the TV: Katie Couric, Matt Lauer and flickering images of people running from advancing clouds of ash and smoke.
“A plane crashed into the World Trade Center,” Schuyler said.
How could a plane hit the World Trade Center?
“Maybe the pilot had a heart attack,” I suggested.
For several seconds, Schuyler and I just stared at the TV, in silence. Then the second plane hit. And the morning ceased being ordinary.
We watched that plane bank deliberately and intentionally, as it slammed into the side of the South Tower.
“That was no accident,” I said.
Immediately, I regretted saying something so inane and possibly frightening. Schuyler was 15. I was the mother. I should be reassuring, telling him we’d be okay, but what I’d seen…
What we’d both seen. What we both knew.
If the second plane was no accident then neither was the first, meaning our country was under attack.
Do you remember? Send your memories to [email protected], so we can print them for others to share.