Remembering 9/11: The day that changed the world for us all…

(BRANDON HANSEN/Chewelah Independent)

The Chewelah football team sets out the Flags Over Chewelah on Sept. 11. (Brandon Hansen photo)

They hadn’t been born yet, but the importance of Sept. 11 was not lost on the Chewelah football team which woke up early that Monday to set up the flags along Main Ave. in town in remberence of the tragic day.

For those who lived through it, they can still remember vividly September 11, 2001 when two passenger airliners smashed into the World Trade Center towers in New York, one airliner crashed into the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. and another airliner plunged to the ground in Pennsylvania after the passengers thwarted the al-Qaeda terrorists who had hijacked their planes.


The subsequent collapse of the two World Trade Center towers killed and injured thousands, including many firefighters and law enforcement officers. The attacks on September 11 killed 2,996 people, including 343 firefighters and 72 law enforcement officers – the deadliest incident for first responders in US history. The Pentagon attack saw 125 people killed in the building and 59 in the plane.

The attacks caused $10 billion in damage to infastructure and property, U.S. stocks dropped by $1.4 trillion in a week and the attacks began the “War on Terror” which led to conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. America is still in Afghanistan and the Iraq War leaves a lasting impact on both the Middle East, our armed services and our country as a whole.

For many Stevens County residents, the feelings from that day are still fresh. Some were getting breakfast at local establishments that morning, some were at school when they learned about the attacks.

“I walked to school and when I walked down the halls everyone seemed somber and the TVs in each room were on,” JHS grad Jory Fields said. “I walked into a room and asked what happened. I was floored, and terrified. The whole day was scary, sad and emotional. That was how I started my junior year of high school.”

Many schools had the attacks on television during that as airspace was shut down and seemingly travel and commerce in the country ground to a halt. The nation trying to figure out what happened, if there were more attacks and what would happen next for the United States.

“Mr. Hogan said pay attention, this will be a huge part of history and we’ll be seeing the affects of the event for years to come,” JHS grad Lindsey Pettigrew said.

For Lorene Wissink who had family in the Navy, it was a perilous day.

“I was home getting ready for work watching Q6,” she said. “Watched in disbelief as the second plane flew into the towers. I had family in the Navy and I tried to get ahold of them. All lines were busy. I was fearful for all of us but really worried about the base being attacked. Mortality was a definite concern that day.”

Chewelah resident Chuck Ritchie, who was living in Alaska at the time got a call from the catering company he worked for saying that he needed to get to work quickly. With airspace shut down, there were three plane full of Japanese tourists that had been grounded and were stuck at a hotel.

“We took care of about 500 stranded travelers for about five days,” he said. “It was quite the experience.”

Wendy Schneider was an air traffic controller working on space over Indiana at the time.

“It was a ‘show,’ if I ever saw one,” Schneider said. “I’ll just say we put a lot of planes on the ground in a short time. Some pilots knew what was going on. Others didn’t.”

For Michael Martin working at UPS in Colville, one of the towers went down when he was delivering packages.

“It was a dark day and difficult to stay cheerful for our customers,” Martin said. “Afterwards, the quiet skies were creepy. The uncertainty over that silence was unnerving.”

Rebecca Conley was born and raised in New York and was in school at the time.

“Our teacher had us sitting in a circle holding hands,” Conley said. “Her son called her who worked in the twin towers and got to speak with him before he died. It was heartbreaking.”

Some residents were overseas, some heard something on the radio and thought it was a fictional radio program. Some were in the military and knew that their life would change.

Barb McGee was working at the Sierra Army Depot and was told to help get a shipment together of medical supplies.

“The call to ship never came as it became clear many died on scene,” McGee said. “So very sad and a day I will never forget.”

For Chewelah Public Library Librarian Bryan Tidwell, his college classes in Spokane were cancelled.

“Mainly I remember how quiet everyone was that week. We certainly discussed what was going on, and classes of course resumed, but the weight of the world was on everyone’s shoulders after that. It took a couple months before we could finally bear it and begin to move on,” Tidwell said. “I also vividly remember the unison of that time. It was as if all partisan debate just fell away. People still disagreed, but priorities had changed drastically and for a brief period in our history, we were united in something.”

Seventeen years has seemingly flown by for many. It’s apparent world events were shaped by what happened on that day. One thing that is evident, considering that a football team of players who weren’t even born during the attacks helped memorialize 9/11 in the small town of Chewelah, the nation is probably a long way off from ever forgetting about the terrorist attacks on that fateful day.