Remembering Sept 11 - Where were you, what were your thoughts?

Claudia Loucks

Lives and landscapes were forever changed as a result of 9/11, and the memories of that tragedy are etched in the minds of many…I asked some of those people.

-LaJean Breedlove, Kewanee, who at that time was teaching at Geneseo High School – “I was driving into Geneseo, to Northside School to make a Coop (Cooperative Student Program) site visit for a student worker, listening to Chicago AM Radio, WLS, and the news reported a plane hitting a building in New York City. It just didn’t seem right. On my way to my classroom at Geneseo High School, hearing more on the radio, I felt like this was going to be something really bad. I stopped at the door of the classroom net to mine and told the substitute teacher what I had heard and what I said was taken lightly like – “things happen,” and I remember being a bit shocked and said ‘No, these things don’t happen here!!!” After school let out and I was driving home, back into Kewanee, I saw 3 jets fly in formation overhead. A little creepy and confusing, I just wanted to get my kids and meet up with (husband) Bill at home.”

-Steve Brown, Cambridge – “I was working in Chicago, and at that time, I was driving around downtown Chicago and listening to the radio when I heard what had happened. Like most people, I was in total shock; I knew pretty much what had happened. At first they weren’t calling it a terrorist attack, but I had the feeling that it was a terrorist attack before the second building was hit. Then it was kind of a feeling of numbness and listening for more information. I could hardly believe what I was hearing. I learned they had cancelled all flights and it was just the oddest thing to not be able to see any airplanes form O’Hare or anywhere in the sky. The skies were clear and normally there are constant flights throughout that area. My job at that time took me to people’s homes and to businesses and wherever I stopped, people were watching TV or listening to the radio and they would invite me in to watch or listen with them…And it was an instant moment of unity.”

-Dan Callison, Geneseo, “I’ve experienced a lot of horrible things in my 70+ years, but 9/11 had to be the worst. Maybe because it was brought live to us by TV crews and played over and over. I’m sure those who experienced Pearl Harbor had a lot of the same emotions but they got their news second hand. I was at work when my wife called and said something was happening and I should turn on the TV. We started watching right after the first plane flew into the tower we thought (and hoped) it was an accident. Then when the second one hit, emotions were all over the place. Worry for the people in the towers and surrounding area. Disbelief. Hope that the first responders could save all those affected. When the towers came down, there were loud groans and screams of ‘no, this can’t be happening!’ I think anger set in and we all felt that we needed to do something, but no one knew what. I know I shed a lot of tears. If I would have been younger I would have enlisted in the service again. As a Christian and a Sunday school teacher, I couldn’t get over the thought of ‘how could someone be that inhumane?’ To plot the deaths of just innocent people. I shouldn’t, but I still watch the specials every year when the time rolls around the feelings of anger and disbelief still surface. I pray that my kids and grandkids never have to deal with those emotions from something done on our home soil.”

-Becky Daniels, Geneseo – “Sept. 11, 2001, began as a normal day for me. I got my older kids off to school and took my younger two to my in-laws’ house so that my Mom and I could enjoy a day of shopping after her morning doctor’s appointment in the Quad Cities. When I dropped the kids off, my in-laws’ Bob and Norma (Daniels) informed me that a plane had just hit a tower in New York. I didn’t really think too much about as it had just happened. By the time I met my Mom a few minutes later; we had the radio on and heard the news unfolding as the second plane made impact. We listened in disbelief as we drove to the appointment and were relieved to hear from my brother, who in 2001 was frequently in New York City on business. Our fun shopping day came to an abrupt end as we came home to follow the news. I recall that evening (husband) Tom and I remarked how beautiful the sky was and how sad it was that so much had changed for everyone on that day.”

-Bob DeBoever, Geneseo – “We had just started combining corn and Judy (wife, now deceased) came walking out to the fields and said they had crashed airplanes into the Towers in New York so I stopped combining and came up to the house to see what was going on…Never thought it would be possible for something of that magnitude to happen in the U.S.”

-Todd Sieben, Geneseo: “I was at home on the morning of 9/11. Our daughter, Rachel, called and asked that we turn on the television because our son Brandon, and daughter-in- law Deb, and daughter Meredith, were in New York getting ready to fly home that morning. We were scared beyond belief because we did not know what flights they were on. Shortly after the first plane hit, Meredith called and told us her flight had been grounded and she was told to leave the airport. Brandon and Deb had already departed just as the first airplane struck the Tower. We began praying immediately. We did not know until the middle of the morning when Brandon and Deb landed in Ohio and called to let us know they were safe. Meredith had to stay in New York until Saturday before she could fly back to Miami. It was unimaginable and unbelievable that anything that horrific could happen in the United States.”

-Amy VanKerrebroeck, Geneseo – “On September 11, 2001, I was teaching 5th grade at Norwood Elementary School in Peoria. The 5th grade students were participating in the D.A.R.E. program, and our police officer was in the middle of giving his weekly lesson. During the lesson, he received a call informing him of the planes crashing into the Twin Towers. He was visibly shaken and unable to continue the lesson. Throughout the remainder of the school day, the teachers stopped in the office to see updates on the principal’s TV. The news just got worse and worse as the day went on. I remember feeling not only scared, but also helpless. I considered donating blood, but was told there would probably not be an increased need since there would be so few survivors. Gas prices soared from under $2 to $4 a gallon as people were lining up at the gas stations. As my husband and I went home that afternoon, we saw a plane with escorts in the sky – the only ones allowed after the day’s events. After 9/11, the feelings of patriotism and unity were strong. Like so many Americans, I will never forget.”

-Nathan Vorac, Geneseo – “I was a sophomore at Geneseo High School when 9/11 occurred. I heard something had happened when I got to school, but didn’t know exactly what until getting into Mr. (Dave) Aper’s class. He had the news on TV. He said it was important we watch the coverage and talk about what it meant. Several teachers that day had us watching the news and discussing it. I remember trying to understand why people would do something like that. Feeling sad for the people on the planes and their families, pride for the people who fought back on Flight 93. Twenty years later, I still have those same feelings, along with being thankful to those who were first responders and to the men and women who work every day to make sure nothing like that happens again.”

Rescue crews congregate near a U.S. flag amidst the rubble of the World Trade Center in New York in this September 13, 2001 file photo. September 11th marks the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks where nearly 3,000 people died when four hijacked airliners were used in coordinated strikes on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center towers. The fourth plane crashed in Pennsylvania.